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IN this edition I have made no important changes, 
but have corrected topical allusions which have 
become out of date. The material of the last few 
chapters may seem now more familiar than at the 
time of the first edition, since it has been popularized 
in two widely read books, Huxley's Brave New World 
and Burnham's Managerial Revolution. I do not 
suggest that my book had any influence on either of 
these, but the parallels are interesting, and will, I 
hope, persuade the reader that my fears are more 
than an individual phantasy. 



PART I. Scientific Knowledge 

-f I Examples of Scientific Method 1 5 

JU-""Criaracteristics of Scientific Method 58 

JJJ Limitations of Scientific Method 73 

i3 Scientific Metaphysics '"$8 

V Science and Religipn ,105 

^f ^^^^a .1 m . 

PART II. Scientific Technique 

VI Beginnings of Scientific Tprhniqu.^ j^j 

VII Technique in Inanimate Nature 150 

III Technique in Biology 158 

IX Technique in Physiology 170 

X Technique in Psychology 178 

XI Technique in Society 191 

PART III. The Scientific Society 

XII Artificially Created Societies 209 

XIJI The Individual and the \Vholpr 223 

XIV Scientific Government f 235 

XV Education in a Scientific Society 251 

XVI Scientific Reproduction 259 

2CVII -^firnrr and Vahws 269 

INDEX 281 


To say that we live in an age of science is a common- 
place, but like most commonplaces it is only partially 
true. From the point of view of our predecessors, if 
they could view our society, we should, no doubt, 
appear to be very scientific, but from the point of 
view of our successors it is probable that the exact 
opposite would seem to be the case. 

Science as a factor in human life is exceedingly 
recent. Art was already well developed before the 
last glacial epoch, as we know from the admirable 
pictures in caves ; of the antiquity of religion we 
cannot speak with equal confidence, but it is highly 
probable that it is coeval with art. At a guess one 
might suppose that both have existed for some 
eighty thousand years. Science as an important force 
begins with Galileo, and has therefore existed for 
some three hundred years. During the first half of 
that short period it remained a pursuit of the learned, 
which did not affect the thoughts or habits of ordinary 
men. It is only during the last hundred and fifty 
years that science has become an important factor 
in determining the everyday life of everyday people. 
In that short time it has caused greater changes than 
had occurred since the days of the ancient Egyptians. 
One hundred and fifty years of science have proved 
more explosive than five thousand years of pre- 
scientific culture. It would be absurd to suppose 



that the explosive power of science is exhausted, or 
has even reached its maximum. It is far more likely 
that science will continue for centuries to come to 
produce more and more rapid changes. One may 
suppose that a new equilibrium will ultimately be 
reached, either when so much is known that a lifetime 
is not sufficient to reach the frontiers of knowledge, 
and therefore further discovery must await some 
considerable increase of longevity, or when men 
become bored with the new toy, become weary of 
the strenuousness required in the making of scientific 
advances, and become content to enjoy the fruits of 
former labours, as the late Romans enjoyed the 
aqueducts built by their predecessors. Or again it 
may prove that no scientific society is capable of 
stability and that a reversion to barbarism is a 
necessary condition of the continuance of human life. 

Such speculations, however, though they may 
amuse an idle moment, are too nebulous to have any 
practical importance. What is important at the 
present time is that the influence of science upon our 
thoughts, our hopes, and our habits is continually 
increasing and likely to increase for several centuries 
at least. 

Science, as its name implies, is primarily know- 
ledge ; by convention it is knowledge of a certain 
kind, the kind, namely, which seeks general laws 
connecting a number of particular facts. Gradually, 
however, the aspect of science as knowledge is being 

thrust into the background by the aspect of science 


as the power of manipulating nature. It is oecause 
science gives us the power of manipulating nature 
that it has more social importance than art. Science 
as the pursuit of truth is the equal, but not the 
superior, of art. Science as a technique, though it 
may have little intrinsic value, has a practical 
importance to which art cannot aspire. 

Science as a technique has a further consequence 
of which the implications are not yet fully evident, 
namely, that it makes possible, and even necessary, 
new forms of human society. It has already pro- 
foundly modified the forms of economic organiza- 
tions and the functions of States, it is beginning to 
modify family life, and is almost certain to do so to 
a much greater extent in the not very distant future. 

In considering the effect of science upon human 
life we have therefore three more or less separate 
matters to examine. The first is the nature and scope 
of scientific knowledge, the second the increased 
power of manipulation derived from scientific 
technique, and the third the changes in social life 
and in traditional institutions which must result 
from the new forms of organization that scientific 
technique demands. Science as knowledge of course 
underlies the other two, since all the effects which 
science produces are the outcome of the knowledge 
which it provides. Man hitherto has been prevented 
from realizing his hopes by ignorance as to means. 
As this ignorance disappears he becomes increasingly 
able to mould his physical environment, his social 



milieu and himself into the forms which he deems 
best. In so far as he is wise this new power is benefi- 
cent ; in so far as he is foolish it is quite the reverse. 
If, therefore, a scientific civilization is to be a good 
civilization it is necessary that increase in knowledge 
should be accompanied by increase in wisdom. I 
mean by wisdom a right conception of the ends of 
life. This is something which science in itself does not 
provide. Increase of science by itself, therefore, is not 
enough to guarantee any genuine progress, though 
it provides one of the ingredients which progress 

In the following pages we shall be concerned with 
science rather than with wisdom. It is well to 
remember, however, that this preoccupation is one- 
sided and needs to be corrected if a balanced view 
of human life is to be achieved. 




SCIENTIFIC method, although in its more refined 
forms it may seem complicated, is in essence remark- 
ably simple. It consists in observing such facts as 
will enable the observer to discover general laws 
governing facts of the kind in question. The two 
stages, first of observation, and second of inference 
to a law, are both essential, and each is susceptible 
of almost indefinite refinement ; but in essence the 
first man who said "fire burns" was employing 
scientific method, at any rate if he had allowed 
himself to be burnt several times. This man had 
already passed through the two stages of observation 
and generalization. He had not, however, what 
scientific technique demands a careful choice of 
significant facts on the one hand, and, on the other 
hand, various means of arriving at laws otherwise 
than by mere generalization. The man who says 
"unsupported bodies in air fall" has merely general- 
ized, and is liable to be refuted by balloons, butter- 
flies, and aeroplanes; whereas the man who under- 
stands the theory of falling bodies knows also why 
certain exceptional bodies do not fall. 
Scientific method, simple as it is in essence, has 



been acquired only with great difficulty, and is still 
employed only by a minority, who themselves con- 
fine its employment to a minority of the questions 
upon which they have opinions. If you number 
among your acquaintances some eminent man of 
science, accustomed to the minutest quantitative 
precision in his experiments and the most abstruse 
skill in his inference from them, you will be able to 
make him the subject of a little experiment which is 
likely to be by no means unilluminating. If you 
tackle him on party politics, theology, income tax, 
house-agents, the bumptiousness of the working- 
classes and other topics of a like nature, you are 
pretty sure, before long, to provoke an explosion, 
and to hear him expressing wholly untested opinions 
with a dogmatism which he would never display in 
regard to the well-founded results of his laboratory 
experiments, ir 

As this illustration shows, the scientific attitude is 
in some degree unnatural to man; the majority of 
our opinions are wish-fulfilments, like dreams in the 
Freudian theory. The mind of the most rational 
among us may be compared to a stormy ocean of 
passionate convictions based upon desire, upon 
which float perilously a few tiny boats carrying a 
cargo of scientifically tested beliefs. Nor is this to be 
altogether deplored : life has to be lived, and there 
is no time to test rationally all the beliefs by which 
our conduct is regulated. Without a certain whole- 
some rashness, no one could long survive. Scientific 



method, therefore, must, in its very nature, be 
confined to the more solemn and official of our 
opinions. A medical man who gives advice on diet 
should give it after full consideration of all that 
science has to say on the matter, but the man who 
follows his advice cannot stop to verify it, and is 
obliged to rely, therefore, not upon science, but 
upon his belief that his medical adviser is scientific. 
A community impregnated with science is one in 
which the recognized experts have arrived at their 
opinions by scientific methods, but it is impossible 
for the ordinary citizen to repeat the work of the 
experts for himself. There is, in the modern world, 
a great body of well-attested knowledge on all kinds 
of subjects, which the ordinary man accepts on 
authority without any need for hesitation; but as 
soon as any strong passion intervenes to warp the 
expert's judgment he becomes unreliable, whatever 
scientific equipment he may possess. The views of 
medical men on pregnancy, child-birth, and lacta- 
tion were until fairly recently impregnated with 
sadism. It required, for example, more evidence to 
persuade them that anaesthetics may be used in 
child-birth than it would have required to persuade 
them of the opposite. Anyone who desires an hour's 
amusement may be advised to look up the tergi- 
versations of eminent craniologists in their attempts 
to prove from brain measurements that women are 
stupider than men. 1 

1 See Havelock Ellis, Man and Woman, 6th edition, pp. 119 ff. 

B 17 


It is not, however, the lapses of scientific men that 
concern us when we are trying to describe scientific 
method. A scientific opinion is one which there is 
some reason to believe true ; an unscientific opinion 
is one which is held for some reason other than its 
probable truth. Our age is distinguished from all 
ages before the seventeenth century by the fact that 
some of our opinions are scientific in the above sense. 
I except bare matters of fact, since generality in a 
greater or less degree is an essential characteristic of 
science, and since men (with the exception of a few 
mystics) have never been able wholly to deny the 
obvious facts of their everyday existence. 

The Greeks, eminent as they were in almost every 
department of human activity, did surprisingly little 
for the creation of science. The great intellectual 
achievement of the Greeks was geometry, which they 
believed to be an a priori study proceeding from self- 
evident premises, and not requiring experimental 
verification. The Greek genius was deductive rather 
than inductive, and was therefore at home in 
mathematics. In the ages that followed, Greek 
mathematics were nearly forgotten, while other 
products of the Greek passion for deduction survived 
and flourished, notably theology and law. The 
Greeks observed the world as poets rather than as 
men of science, partly, I think, because all manual 
activity was ungentlemanly, so that any study which 
required experiment seemed a little vulgar. Perhaps 

it would be fanciful to connect with this prejudice 


the fact that the department in which the Greeks 
were most scientific was astronomy, which deals with 
bodies that only can be seen and not touched. 

However that may be, it is certainly remarkable 
how much the Greeks discovered in astronomy. 
They early decided that the earth is round, and some 
of them arrived at the Copernican theory that it is 
the earth's rotation, and not the revolution of the 
heavens, that causes the apparent diurnal motion of 
the sun and stars. Archimedes, writing to King 
Gelon of Syracuse, says: "Aristarchus of Samos 
brought out a book consisting of some hypotheses 
of which the premises lead to the conclusion that the 
universe is many times greater than that now so 
called. His hypotheses are that the fixed stars and 
the sun remain unmoved, that the earth revolves 
about the sun in the circumference of a circle, the 
sun lying in the centre of the orbit." Thus the 
Greeks discovered not only the diurnal rotation of 
the earth, but also its annual revolution about the 
sun. It was the discovery that a Greek had held this 
opinion which gave Copernicus courage to revive it. 
In the days ot the Renaissance, when Copernicus 
lived, it was held that any opinion which had been 
entertained by an ancient might be true, but an 
opinion which no ancient had entertained could not 
deserve respect. I doubt whether Copernicus would 
ever have become a Copernican but for Aristarchus, 
whose opinion had been forgotten until the revival 
of classical learning. 



The Greeks also discovered perfectly valid 
methods of measuring the circumference of the 
earth. Eratosthenes the Geographer estimated it at 
250,000 stadia (about 24,662 miles), which is by 
no means far from the truth. 

The most scientific of the Greeks was Archimedes 
(257-212 B.C.). Like Leonardo da Vinci in a later 
period, he recommended himself to a prince on the 
ground of his skill in the arts of war, and like 
Leonardo he was granted permission to add to 
human knowledge on condition that he subtracted 
from human life. His activities in this respect were, 
however, more distinguished than those of Leonardo, 
since he invented the most amazing mechanical 
contrivances for defending the city of Syracuse 
against the Romans, and was finally killed by a 
Roman soldier when that city was captured. He is 
said to have been so absorbed in a mathematical 
problem that he did not notice the Romans coming. 
Plutarch is very apologetic on the subject of the 
mechanical inventions of Archimedes, which he 
feels to have been hardly worthy of a gentleman ; 
but he considers him excusable on the ground that 
he was helping his cousin the king at a time of dire 

Archimedes showed great genius in mathematics 
and extraordinary skill in the invention of mechan- 
ical contrivances, but his contributions to science, 
remarkable as they are, still display the deductive 
attitude of the Greeks, which made the experimental 


method scarcely possible for them. His work on 
Statics is famous, and justly so, but it proceeds 
from axioms like Euclid's geometry, and the axioms 
are supposed to be self-evident, not the result of 
experiment. His book On Floating Bodies is the one 
which according to tradition resulted from the 
problem of King Hiero's crown, which was suspected 
of being not made of pure gold. This problem, as 
everyone knows, Archimedes is supposed to have 
solved while in his bath. At any rate, the method 
which he proposes in his book for such cases is a 
perfectly valid one, and although the book proceeds 
from postulates by a method of deduction, one 
cannot but suppose that he arrived at the postulates 
experimentally. This is, perhaps, the most nearly 
scientific (in the modern sense) of the works of 
Archimedes. Soon after his time, however, such 
feeling as the Greeks had had for the scientific 
investigation of natural phenomena decayed, and 
though pure mathematics continued to flourish 
down to the capture of Alexandria by the Moham- 
medans, there were hardly any further advances 
in natural science, and the best that had been done, 
such as the theory of Aristarchus, was forgotten. 

The Arabs were more experimental than the 
Greeks, especially in chemistry. They hoped to 
transmute base metals into gold, to discover the 
philosopher's stone, and to concoct the elixir of life. 
Partly on this account chemical investigations were 
viewed with favour. Throughout the Dark Ages it 



was mainly by the Arabs that the tradition of 
civilization was carried on, and it was largely from 
them that Christians such as Roger Bacon acquired 
whatever scientific knowledge the later Middle 
Ages possessed. The Arabs, however, had a defect 
which was the opposite of that of the Greeks : they 
sought detached facts rather than general principles,! 
and had not the power of inferring general laws! 
from the facts which they discovered. 

In Europe, when the scholastic system first began 
to give way before the Renaissance, there came to 
be, for a time, a dislike of all generalizations and all 
systems. Montaigne illustrates this tendency. He 
likes queer facts, particularly if they disprove some- 
thing. He has no desire to make his opinions syste- 
matic and coherent. Rabelais also, with his motto: 
"Fais ce que voudras," is as averse from intellectual 
as from other fetters. The Renaissance rejoiced in the 
recovered liberty of speculation, and was not anxious 
to lose this liberty even in the interests of truth. Of 
the typical figures of the Renaissance far the most 
scientific was Leonardo, whose note-books are 
fascinating and contain many brilliant anticipations 
of later discoveries, but he brought almost nothing 
to fruition, and remained without effect upon hif 
scientific successors. 

Scientific method, as we understand it, comes into 
the world full-fledged with Galileo (1564-1642), 
and, to a somewhat lesser degree, in his contem- 
porary, Kepler (1571-1630). Kepler is known to 



fame through his three laws : he first discovered that 
the planets move round the sun in ellipses, not in 
circles. To the modern mind there is nothing aston- 
ishing in the fact that the earth's orbit is an ellipse, 
but to minds trained on antiquity anything except 
a circle, or some complication of circles, seemed 
almost incredible for a heavenly body. To the 
Greeks the planets were divine, and must therefore 
move in perfect curves. Circles and epicycles did not 
offend their aesthetic susceptibilities, but a crooked, 
skew orbit such as the earth's actually is would 
have shocked them deeply. Unprejudiced observa- 
tion without regard to aesthetic prejudices required 
therefore, at that time, a rare intensity of scientific 
ardour. It was Kepler and Galileo who established 
the fact that the earth and the other planets go round 
the sun. This had been asserted by Copernicus, and, 
as we have seen, by certain Greeks, but they had 
not succeeded in giving proofs. Copernicus, indeed, 
had no serious arguments to advance in favour of his 
view. It would be doing Kepler more than justice 
to suggest that in adopting the Copernican hypothesis 
he was acting on purely scientific motives. It appears 
that, at any rate in youth, he was addicted to sun- 
worship, and thought the centre of the universe the 
only place worthy of so great a deity. None but 
scientific motives, however, could have led him to 
the discovery that the planetary orbits are ellipses 
and not circles. 

He, and still more Galileo, possessed the scientific 



method in its completeness. While much more is 
known than was known in their day, nothing essential 
has been added to method. They proceeded from 
observation of particular facts to the establishment 
of exact quantitative laws, by means of which future 
particular facts could be predicted. They shocked 
their contemporaries profoundly, partly because 
their conclusions were inherently shocking to the 
beliefs of that age, but partly also because the belief 
in authority had enabled learned men to confine 
their researches to libraries, and the professors were 
pained at the suggestion that it might be necessary to 
look at the world in order to know what it is like. 

Galileo, it must be confessed, was something of a 
gamin. When still very young he became Professor of 
Mathematics at Pisa, but as the salary was only 
7^d. a day, he does not seem to have thought that 
a very dignified bearing could be expected of him. 
He began by writing a treatise against the wearing 
of cap and gown in the University, which may 
perhaps have been popular with undergraduates, 
but was viewed with grave disfavour by his fellow- 
professors. He would amuse himself by arranging 
occasions which would make his colleagues look silly. 
They asserted, for example, on the basis of Aris- 
totle's Physics, that a body weighing ten pounds 
would fall through a given distance in one-tenth of 
the time that would be taken by a body weighing 
one pound. So he went up to the top of the Leaning 
Tower of Pisa one morning with a ten-pound shot 


and a one-pound shot, and just as the professors 
were proceeding with leisurely dignity to their 
respective lecture-rooms in the presence of their 
pupils, he attracted their attention and dropped the 
two weights from the top of the tower to their feet. 
The two weights arrived practically simultaneously. 
The professors, however, maintained that their eyes 
must have deceived them, since it was impossible 
that Aristotle could be in error. 

On another occasion he was even more rash. 
Giovanni dei Medici, who was the Governor of 
Leghorn, invented a dredging machine of which he 
was very proud. Galileo pointed out that whatever 
else it might do it would not dredge, which proved 
to be a fact. This caused Giovanni to become an 
ardent Aristotelian. 

Galileo became unpopular and was hissed at 
his lectures a fate which also befell Einstein in 
Berlin. Then he made a telescope and invited 
the professors to look through it at Jupiter's 
moons. They refused on the ground that Aristotle 
had not mentioned these satellites, and therefore 
anybody who thought he saw them must be mis- 

The experiment from the Leaning Tower of Pisa 
illustrated Galileo's first important piece of work, 
namely, the establishment of the Law of Falling 
Bodies, according to which all bodies fall at the 
same rate in a vacuum and at the end of a given 
time have a velocity proportional to the time in 



which they have been falling, and have traversed 
a distance proportional to the square of that time. 
Aristotle had maintained otherwise, but neither he 
nor any of his successors throughout nearly two 
thousand years had taken the trouble to find out 
whether what he said was true. The idea of doing so 
was a novelty, and Galileo's disrespect for authority 
was considered abominable. He had, of course, many 
friends, men to whom the spectacle of intelligence 
was delightful in itself. Few such men, however, held 
academic posts, and university opinion was bitterly 
hostile to his discoveries. 

As everyone knows, he came in conflict with the 
Inquisition at the end of his life for maintaining that 
the earth goes round the sun. He had had a previous 
minor encounter from which he had emerged without 
great damage, but in the year 1632 he published a 
book of dialogues on the Copernican and Ptolemaic 
systems, in which he had the temerity to place some 
remarks that had been made by the Pope into the 
mouth of a character named Simplicius. The Pope 
had hitherto been friendly to him, but at this point 
became furious. Galileo was living at Florence on 
terms of friendship with the Grand Duke, but the 
Inquisition sent for him to come to Rome to be 
tried, and threatened the Grand Duke with pains 
and penalties if he continued to shelter Galileo. 
Galileo was at this time seventy years old, very ill, 
and going blind ; he sent a medical certificate to the 

effect that he was not fit to travel, so the Inquisition 


sent a doctor of their own with orders that as soon 
as he was well enough he should be brought in chains. 
Upon hearing that this order was on its way, he set 
out voluntarily. By means of threats he was induced 
to make submission. 

The sentence of the Inquisition is an interesting 
document : 

. . . Whereas you, Galileo, son of the late Vincenzio Galilei, of 
Florence, aged 70 years, were denounced in 1615, to this Holy 
Office, for holding as true a false doctrine taught by many, 
namely, that the sun is immovable in the centre of the world, 
and that the earth moves, and also with a diurnal motion ; also, 
for having pupils whom you instructed in the same opinions ; 
also, for maintaining a correspondence on the same with some 
German mathematicians ; also for publishing certain letters on 
the sunspots, in which you developed the same doctrine as 
true ; also for answering the objections which were continually 
produced from the Holy Scriptures, by glozing the said Scrip- 
tures according to your own meaning ; and whereas thereupon 
was produced the copy of a writing, in form of a letter, pro- 
fessedly written by you to a person formerly your pupil, in 
which, following the hypothesis of Copernicus, you include 
several propositions contrary to the true sense and authority 
of the Holy Scriptures ; therefore (this Holy Tribunal being 
desirous of providing against the disorder and mischief which 
were thence proceeding and increasing to the detriment of the 
Holy Faith) by the desire of his Holiness and of the Most 
Eminent Lords Cardinals of this supreme and universal 
Inquisition, the two propositions of the stability of the sun, and 
the motion of the earth, were qualified by the Theological 
Qualifiers as follows : 

1. The proposition that the sun is in the centre of the world 
and immovable from its place is absurd, philosophically false, 
and formally heretical ; because it is expressly contrary to the 
Holy Scriptures. 

2. The proposition that the earth is not the centre of the 



world, nor immovable, but that it moves, and also with a 
diurnal action, is also absurd, philosophically false, and, 
theologically considered, at least erroneous in faith. 

But whereas, being pleased at that time to deal mildly with 
you, it was decreed in the Holy Congregation, held before his 
Holiness on the twenty-fifth day of February, 1616, that his 
Eminence the Lord Cardinal Bellarmirie should enjoin you to 
give up altogether the said false doctrine ; and if you should 
refuse, that you should be ordered by the Commissary of the 
Holy Office to relinquish it, not to teach it to others, nor to 
defend it ; and in default of acquiescence, that you should be 
imprisoned ; and whereas in execution of this decree, on the 
following day, at the Palace, in the presence of his Eminence the 
said Lord Cardinal Bellarrnine, after you had been mildly 
admonished by the said Lord Cardinal, you were commanded 
by the Commissary of the Holy Office, before a notary and 
witnesses, to relinquish altogether the said false opinion, and, 
in future, neither to defend nor teach it in any manner, neither 
verbally nor in writing, and upon your promising obedience 
you were dismissed. 

And, in order that so pernicious a doctrine might be alto- 
gether rooted out, not insinuate itself further to the heavy 
detriment of the Catholic truth, a decree emanated from the 
Holy Congregation of the Index prohibiting the books which 
treat of this doctrine, declaring it false, and altogether contrary 
to the Holy and Divine Scripture. 

And whereas a book has since appeared published at 
Florence last year, the title of which showed that you were the 
author, which title is The Dialogue of Galileo Galilei, on the two 
principal Systems of the World the Ptolemaic and Copernican ; and 
whereas the Holy Congregation has heard that, in consequence 
of printing the said book, the false opinion of the earth's 
motion and stability of the sun is daily gaining ground, the 
said book has been taken into careful consideration, and in it 
has been detected a glaring violation of the said order, which 
had been intimated to you ; inasmuch as in this book you have 
defended the said opinion, already, and in your presence, 
condemned; although, in the same book, you labour with 
many circumlocutions to induce the belief that it is left un- 



decided and merely probable; which is equally a very grave 
error, since an opinion can in no way be probable which has 
been already declared and finally determined contrary to the 
Divine Scripture. Therefore, by Our order, you have been 
cited to this Holy Office, where, on your examination upon 
oath, you have acknowledged the said book as written and 
printed by you. You also confessed that you began to write the 
said book ten or twelve years ago, after the order aforesaid 
had been given. Also, that you had demanded licence to 
publish it, without signifying to those who granted you this 
permission that you had been commanded not to hold, defend, 
or teach, the said doctrine in any manner. You also confessed 
that the reader might think the arguments adduced on the false 
side to be so worded as more effectually to compel conviction 
than to be easily refutable, alleging, in excuse, that you had 
thus run into an error, foreign (as you say) to your intention, 
from writing in the form of a dialogue, and in consequence of 
the natural complacency which everyone feels with regard to 
his own subtleties, and in showing himself more skilful than 
the generality of mankind in contriving, even in favour of 
false propositions, ingenious and plausible arguments. 

And, upon a convenient time being given you for making 
your defence, you produced a certificate in the handwriting of 
his Eminence the Lord Cardinal Bellarmine, procured, as you 
said, by yourself, that you might defend yourself against the 
calumnies of your enemies, who reported that you had abjured 
your opinions, and had been punished by the Holy Office; in 
which certificate it is declared that you had not abjured nor 
had been punished, but merely that the declaration made by 
his Holiness, and promulgated by the Holy Congregation of the 
Index, had been announced to you, which declares that the 
opinion of the motion of the earth and stability of the sun is 
contrary to the Holy Scriptures, and, therefore, cannot be held 
or defended. Wherefore, since no mention is there made of two 
articles of the order, to wit, the order "not to teach" and "in 
any manner/ 1 you argued that we ought to believe that, in the 
lapse of fourteen or sixteen years, they had escaped your 
memory, and that this was also the reason why you were silent 
as to the order when you sought permission to publish your 


book, and that this is said by you, not to excuse your error, but 
that it may be attributed to vain-glorious ambition rath *r than 
to malice. But this very certificate, produced on your behalf, 
has greatly aggravated your offence, since it is therein declared 
that the said opinion is contrary to the Holy Scriptures, and 
yet you have dared to treat of it, and to argue that it is prob- 
able. Nor is there any extenuation in the licence artfully and 
cunningly extorted by you, since you did not intimate the 
command imposed upon you. But whereas it appeared to 
Us that you had not disclosed the whole truth with regard to 
your intention, We thought it necessary to proceed to the 
rigorous examination of you, in which (without any prejudice 
to what you had confessed, and which is above detailed against 
you, with regard to your said intention) you answered like a 
good Catholic. 

Therefore, having seen and maturely considered the merits 
of your cause, with your said confessions and excuses, and 
everything else which ought to be seen and considered, We 
have come to the underwritten final sentence against you : 

Invoking, therefore, the most holy name of our Lord Jesus 
Christ, and of His Most Glorious Virgin Mother, Mary, We 
pronounce this Our final sentence, which, sitting in council and 
judgment with the Reverend Masters of Sacred Theology and 
Doctors of both Laws, Our Assessors, We put forth in this 
writing in regard to the matters and controversies between the 
Magnificent Carlo Sincereo, Doctor of both Laws, Fiscal 
Proctor of the Holy Office, of the one part, and you, Galileo 
Galilei, defendant, tried and confessed as above, of the other 
part, We pronounce, judge, and declare, that you, the said 
Galileo, by reason of these things which have been detailed in 
the course of this writing, and which, as above, you have 
confessed, have rendered yourself vehemently suspected by this 
Holy Office of heresy, that is of having believed and held the 
doctrine (which is false and contrary to the Holy and Divine 
Scriptures), that the sun is the centre of the world, and that it 
does not move from east to west, and that the earth docs move, 
and is not the centre of the world ; also, that an opinion can 
be held and supported and probable, after it has been declared 
and finally decreed contrary to the Holy Scripture, and, 



consequently, that you have incurred all the censures and 
penalties enjoined and promulgated in the sacred canons and 
other general and particular constitutions against delinquents 
of this description. From which it is Our pleasure that you be 
absolved, provided that with a sincere heart and unfeigned 
faith, in Our presence, you abjure, curse, and detest, the said 
errors and heresies, and every other error and heresy, contrary 
to the Catholic and Apostolic Church of Rome, in the form 
now shown to you. 

But that your grievous and pernicious error and transgression 
may not go altogether unpunished, and that you may be made 
more cautious in future, and may be a warning to others to 
abstain from delinquencies of this sort, We decree that the 
book Dialogues of Galileo Galilei be prohibited by a public 
edict, and We condemn you to the formal prison of this Holy 
Office for a period determinable at Our pleasure ; and by way 
of salutary penance, We order you during the next three years 
to recite, once a week, the seven penitential psalms, reserving 
to Ourselves the power of moderating, commuting, or taking 
off, the whole or part of the said punishment or penance. 

The formula of abjuration, which, as a consequence 
of this sentence, Galileo was compelled to pronounce, 
was as follows : 

I, Galileo Galilei, son of the late Vincenzio Galilei of Florence, 
aged seventy years, being brought personally to judgment, and 
kneeling before you, Most Eminent and Most Reverend Lords 
Cardinals, General Inquisitors of the Universal Christian 
Republic against heretical depravity, having before my eyes 
the Holy Gospels which I touch with my own hands, swear 
that I have always believed, and, with the help of God, will in 
future believe, every article which the Holy Catholic and 
Apostolic Church of Rome holds, teaches, and preaches. But 
because I have been enjoined, by this Holy Office, altogether 
to abandon the false opinion which maintains that the sun is 
the centre and immovable, and forbidden to hold, defend, or 
teach, the said false doctrine in any manner ; and because, after 
it had been signified to me that the said doctrine is repugnant 



to the Holy Scripture, I have written and printed a book, in 
which I treat of the same condemned doctrine, and adduce 
reasons with great force in support of the same, without giving 
any solution, and therefore have been judged grievously 
suspected of heresy ; that is to say, that I held and believed that 
the sun is the centre of the world and immovable, and that the 
earth is not the centre and movable, I am willing to remove 
from the minds of your Eminences, and of every Catholic 
Christian, this vehement suspicion rightly entertained towards 
me, therefore, with a sincere heart and unfeigned faith, I 
abjure, curse, and detest the said errors and heresies, and 
generally every other error and sect contrary to the said Holy 
Church ; and I swear that I will never more in future say, or 
assert anything, verbally or in writing, which may give rise 
to a similar suspicion of me; but that if I shall know any 
heretic, or anyone suspected of heresy, I will denounce him to 
this Holy Office, or to the Inquisitor and Ordinary of the place 
in which I may be. I swear, moreover, and promise that I will 
fulfil and observe fully all the penances which have been or 
shall be laid on me by this Holy Office. But if it shall happen 
that I violate any of my said promises, oaths, and protestations 
(which God avert!), I subject myself to all the pains and 
punishments which have been decreed and promulgated by 
the sacred canons and other general and particular constitu- 
tions against delinquents of this description. So, may God help 
me, and His Holy Gospels, which I touch with my own hands, 
I, the above-named Galileo Galilei, have abjured, sworn, 
promised, and bound myself as above ; and, in witness thereof, 
with my own hand have subscribed this present writing of my 
abjuration, which I have recited word for word. 

At Rome, in the Convent of Minerva, June 22, 1633, I> 
Galileo Galilei, have abjured as above with my own hand. 1 

It is not true that, after reciting this abjuration, he 
muttered: "Eppur si muove." It was the world that 
said this not Galileo. 

1 From Galileo, His Life and Work, by J. J. Fahie, pp. 313 ff. 1903. 


The Inquisition stated that Galileo's fate should 
be "a warning to others to abstain from delinquen- 
cies of this sort." In this they were successful, so far, 
at least, as Italy was concerned. Galileo was the last 
of the great Italians. No Italian since his day has 
been capable of delinquencies of his sort. It cannot 
be said that the Church has altered greatly since the 
time of Galileo. Wherever it has power, as in Ireland 
and Boston, it still forbids all literature containing 
new ideas. 

The conflict between Galileo and the Inquisition 
is not merely the conflict between free thought and 
bigotry or between science and religion; it is a 
conflict between the spirit of induction and the spirit 
of deduction. Those who believe in deduction as the 
method of arriving at knowledge are compelled to 
find their premises somewhere, usually in a sacred 
book. Deduction from inspired books is the method 
of arriving at truth employed by jurists, Christians, 
Mohammedans, and Communists. Since deduction 
as a means of obtaining knowledge collapses when 
doubt is thrown upon its premises, those who believe 
in deduction must necessarily be bitter against men 
who question the authority of the sacred books. 
Galileo questioned both Aristotle and the Scriptures, 
and thereby destroyed the whole edifice of mediaeval 
knowledge. His predecessors had known how the 
world was created, what was man's destiny, the 
deepest mysteries of metaphysics, and the hidden 
principles governing the behaviour of bodies. 

o 33 


Throughout the moral and material universe 
nothing was mysterious to them, nothing hidden, 
nothing incapable of exposition in orderly syllogisms. 
Compared with all this wealth, what was left to the 
followers of Galileo? a law of falling bodies, the 
theory of the pendulum, and Kepler's ellipses. Can 
it be wondered at that the learned cried out at such 
a destruction of their hard-won wealth? As the rising 
sun scatters the multitude of stars, so Galileo's few 
proved truths banished the scintillating firmament of 
mediaeval certainties. 

Socrates had said that he was wiser than his 
contemporaries because he alone knew that he knew 
nothing. This was a rhetorical device. Galileo could 
have said with truth that he knew something, but 
knew he knew little, while his Aristotelian contempo- 
raries knew nothing, but thought they knew much. 
Knowledge, as opposed to fantasies of wish-fulfilment, 
is difficult to come by. A little contact with real 
knowledge makes fantasies less acceptable. As a 
matter of fact, knowledge is even harder to come by 
than Galileo supposed, and much that he believed 
was only approximate ; but in the process of acquir- 
ing knowledge at once secure and general, Galileo 
took the first great step. He is, therefore, the father 
of modern times. Whatever we may like or dislike 
about the age in which we live, its increase of 
population, its improvement in health, its trains, 
motor-cars, radio, politics, and advertisements of 
soap all emanate from Galileo. If the Inquisition 


could have caught him young, we might not now be 
enjoying the blessings of air-warfare and atomic 
bombs, nor, on the other hand, the diminution of 
poverty and disease which is characteristic of our age. 
It is customary amongst a certain school of sociolo- 
gists to minimize the importance of intelligence, and 
to attribute all great events to large impersonal 
causes. I believe this to be an entire delusion. I 
believe that if a hundred of the men of the seventeenth 
century had been killed in infancy, the modern 
world would not exist. And of these hundred, 
Galileo is the chief. 


Sir Isaac Newton was born in the year in which 
Galileo died (1642). Like Galileo he lived to be a 
very old man, as he died in the year 1727. 

In the short period between these two men's 
activities, the position of science in the world was 
completely changed. Galileo, all his life, had to fight 
against the recognized men of learning, and in his 
last years had to suffer persecution and condemnation 
of his work. Newton, on the other hand, from the 
moment when, at the age of eighteen, he became an 
undergraduate at Trinity College, Cambridge, 
received universal applause. Less than two years 
after he had taken his M. A. degree the Master of his 
College was describing him as a man of incredible 
genius. He was acclaimed by the whole learned 



world; he was honoured by monarchs; and, in the 
true English spirit, was rewarded for his work by a 
Government post in which it could not be continued. 
So important was he, that when George I ascended 
the throne, the great Leibniz had to be left behind 
in Hanover because he and Newton had quarrelled. 

It is fortunate for succeeding ages that Newton's 
circumstances were so placid. He was a timorous, 
nervous man, at once quarrelsome and afraid of 
controversy. He hated publication because it ex- 
posed him to criticism, and had to be bullied into 
publishing by kind friends. A propos of his Opticks 
he wrote to Leibniz : "I was so persecuted with 
discussions arising from the publication of my theory 
of light, that I blamed my own imprudence for 
parting with so substantial a blessing as my quiet 
to run after a shadow." If he had encountered the 
sort of opposition with which Galileo had to contend, 
it is probable that he would never have published 
a line. 

Newton's triumph was the most spectacular in the 
history of science. Astronomy, since the time of the 
Greeks, had been at once the most advanced and 
the most respected of the sciences. Kepler's laws 
were still fairly recent, and the third of them was by 
no means universally accepted. Moreover, they 
appeared strange and unaccountable to those who 
had been accustomed to circles and epicycles. 
Galileo's theory of the tides was not right, the motions 
of the moon were not properly understood, and 



astronomers could not but feel the loss of that epic 
unityjthat the heavens possessed in the Ptolemaic 
system. Newton, at one stroke, by his law of gravita- 
tion brought order and unity into this confusion. 
Not only the major aspects of the motions of the 
planets and satellites were accounted for, but also 
all the niceties at that time known ; even the comets, 
which, not so long ago, had "blazed forth the death 
of princes," were found to proceed according to the 
law of gravitation. Halley's comet was one of the 
most obliging among them, and Halley was Newton's 
best friend. 

Newton's Principia proceeds in the grand Greek 
manner : from the three laws of motion and the law 
of gravitation, by purely mathematical deduction, 
the whole solar system is explained. Newton's work 
is statuesque and Hellenic, unlike the best work of 
our own time. The nearest approach to the same 
classical perfection among moderns is the theory of 
relativity, but even that does not aim at the same 
finality, since the rate of progress nowadays is too 
great. Everyone knows the story of the fall of the 
apple. Unlike most such stories, it is not certainly 
known to be false. At any rate, it was in the year 
1665 tnat Newton first thought of the law of gravita- 
tion, and in that year, on account of the Great 
Plague, he spent his time in the country, possibly 
in an orchard. He did not publish his Principia until 
the year 1687 : for twenty-one years he was content 
to think over his theory and gradually perfect it. 



No modern would dare to do such a thing, since 
twenty-one years is enough to change completely 
the scientific landscape. Even Einstein's work has 
always contained ragged edges, unresolved doubts, 
and unfinished speculations. I _do not say this as a 
criticism; I say it only to illustrate the difference 
between our age and that of Newton. We aim no 
longer at perfection, because of the army of successors 
whom we can scarcely outstrip, and who are at every 
moment ready to obliterate our traces. 

The universal respect accorded to Newton, as 
contrasted with the treatment mctcd out to Galileo, 
was due in part to Galileo's own work and to that 
of the other men of science who filled the intervening 
years, but it was due also, and quite as much, to 
the course of politics. In Germany, the Thirty Years' 
War, which was raging when Galileo died, halved 
the population without achieving the slightest change 
in the balance of power between Protestants and 
Catholics. This caused even the least reflective to 
think that perhaps wars of religion were a mistake. 
France, though a Catholic power, had supported 
the German Protestants, and Henry IV, although 
he became a Catholic in order to win Paris, was not 
led by this motive into any great bigotry with 
regard to his new faith. In England the Civil War, 
which began in the year of Newton's birth, led to the 
rule of the saints, which turned everybody except 
the saints against religious zeal. Newton entered the 
University in the year after that in which Charles II 



returned from exile, and Charles II, who founded 
the Royal Society, did all in his power to encourage 
science, partly, no doubt, as an antidote to bigotry. 
Protestant bigotry had kept him an exile, while 
Catholic bigotry caused his brother to lose the 
throne. Charles II, who was an intelligent monarch, 
made it a rule of government to avoid having to set 
out on his travels again. The period from his acces- 
sion to the death of Queen Anne, was the most 
brilliant, intellectually, in English history. 

In France, meanwhile, Descartes had inaugurated 
modern philosophy, but his theory of vortices proved 
an obstacle to the acceptance of Newton's ideas. It 
was only after Newton's death, and largely as a 
result of Voltaire's Lettres Philosophiques , that Newton 
gained vogue, but when he did his vogue was terrific ; 
in fact, throughout the following century down to the 
fall of Napoleon, it was chiefly the French who 
carried on Newton's work. The English were misled 
by patriotism into adhering to his methods where 
they were inferior to those of Leibniz, with the result 
that after his death English mathematics were 
negligible for a hundred years. The harm that in 
Italy was done by bigotry was done in England by 
nationalism. It would be hard to say which of the 
two proved the more pernicious. 

Though Newton's Principia retains the deductive 
form which was inaugurated by the Greeks, its 
spirit is quite different from that of Greek work, 
since the law of gravitation, which is one of its 



premises, is not supposed to be self-evident, but is 
arrived at inductively from Kepler's laws. The book, 
therefore, illustrates scientific method in the form 
which is its ideal. From observation of particular 
facts, it arrives by induction at a general law, and 
by deduction from the general law other particular 
facts are inferred. This is still the ideal of physics, 
which is the science from which, in theory, all 
others ought to be deduced ; but the realization of 
the ideal is somewhat more difficult than it seemed 
in Newton's day, and premature systemization has 
been found to be a danger. 

Newton's law of gravitation has had a peculiar 
history. While it continued for over two hundred 
years to explain almost every fact that was known 
in regard to the motions of the heavenly bodies, it 
remained itself isolated and mysterious among 
natural laws. New branches of physics grew to vast 
proportions ; the theories of sound, heat, light, and 
electricity were successfully explored; but no 
property of matter was discovered which could be 
in any way connected with gravitation. It was only 
through Einstein's general theory of relativity (1915) 
that gravitation was fitted into the general scheme 
of physics, and then it was found to belong rather 
to geometry than to physics in the old-fashioned 
sense. From a practical point of view, Einstein's 
theory involves only very minute corrections of 
Newtonian results. These very minute corrections, 

so far as they are measurable, have been empirically 


verified ; but while the practical change is sma,H, the 
intellectual change is enormous, since our whole 
conception of space and time has had to be revolu- 
tionized. The work of Einstein has emphasized 
the difficulty of permanent achievement in science. 
Newton's law of gravitation had reigned so long, 
and explained so much, that it seemed scarcely 
credible that it should stand in need of correction. 
Nevertheless, such correction has at last proved 
necessary, and no one doubts that the correction will, 
in its turn, have to be corrected. 


The earliest triumphs of scientific method were in 
astronomy. Its most noteworthy triumphs in quite 
recent times have been in atomic physics. Both these 
are matters requiring much mathematics for their 
treatment. Perhaps in its ultimrte perfection all 
science will be mathematical, but in the meantime 
there are vast fields to which mathematics is scarcely 
applicable, and among these are to be found some 
of the most important achievements of modern 

We may take Darwin's work as illustrative of the 
non-mathematical sciences. Darwin, like Newton, 
dominated the intellectual outlook of an epoch, not 
only among men of science, but among the general 
educated public; and, like Galileo, he came into 
conflict with theology, though with results less 



disastrous to himself. Darwin's importance in the 
history of culture is very great, but the value of his 
work from a strictly scientific point of view is difficult 
to appraise. He did not invent the hypothesis of 
evolution, which had occurred to many of his 
predecessors. He brought a mass of evidence in its 
favour, and he invented a certain mechanism which 
he called "natural selection" to account for it. Much 
of his evidence remains valid, but "natural selec- 
tion" is less in favour amongst biologists than it 
used to be. 

He was a man who travelled widely, observed 
intelligently, and reflected patiently. Few men of 
his eminence have had less of the quality called 
brilliance; no one thought much of him in his 
youth. At Cambridge he was content to do no work 
and take a pass degree. Not being able, at that 
time, to study biology in the University, he pre- 
ferred to spend his time walking round the country 
collecting beetles, which was officially a form of 
idleness. His real education he owed to the voyage 
of the Beagle, which gave him the opportunity of 
studying the flora and fauna of many regions, and 
of observing the habitats of allied, but geographically 
separated, species. Some of his best work was 
concerned with what is now called ecology, i.e. the 
geographical distribution of species and genera. 1 
He observed, for example, that the vegetation of 
the High Alps resembles that of the Polar regions, 

1 Cf. Hogben, The Natun of Living Matter, 1930, p. 143. 


from which he inferred a common ancestry at the 
time of the glacial epoch. 

Apart from scientific details, Darwin's importance 
lies in the fact that he caused biologists, and through 
them, the general public, to abandon the former 
belief in the immutability of species, and to accept 
the view that all different kinds of animals have 
been developed by variation out of a common 
ancestry. Like every other innovator of modern 
times, he had to combat the authority of Aristotle. 
Aristotle, it should be said, has been one of the great 
misfortunes of the human race. To this day the 
teaching of logic in most universities is full of 
nonsense for which he is responsible. 

The theory of biologists before Darwin was that 
there is laid up in Heaven an ideal cat and an ideal 
dog, and so on; and that actual cats and dogs are 
more or less imperfect copies of these celestial 
types. Each species corresponds to a different idea 
in the Divine Mind, and therefore there could be 
no transition from one species to another, since 
each species resulted from a separate act of creation. 
Geological evidence made this view increasingly 
difficult to maintain, since the ancestors of existing 
widely separated types were found to resemble each 
other much more closely than do the species of the 
present day. The horse, for example, once had his 
proper complement of toes ; early birds were scarcely 
distinguishable from reptiles, and so on. While the 
particular mechanism of "natural selection" is no 



longer regarded by biologists as adequate, the 
general fact of evolution is now universally admitted 
among educated people. 

In regard to animals other than man, the theory 
of evolution might have been, admitted by some 
people without too great a struggle, but in the 
popular mind Darwinism became identified with 
the hypothesis that men are descended from monkeys. 
This was painful to our human conceit, almost as 
painful as the Copernican doctrine that the earth 
is not the centre of the universe. Traditional theology, 
as is natural, has always been flattering to the human 
species; if it had been invented by monkeys or 
inhabitants of Venus, it would, no doubt, not have 
had this quality. As it is, people have always been 
able to defend their self-esteem, under the impression 
that they were defending religion. Moreover, we 
know that men have souls, whereas monkeys have 
none. If men developed gradually out of monkeys, 
at what moment did they acquire a soul? This 
problem is not really any worse than the problem as 
to the particular stage at which the foetus acquires 
a soul, but new difficulties always seem worse than 
old ones, since the old ones lose their sting by 
familiarity. If, to escape from the difficulty, we 
decide that monkeys have souls, we shall be driven, 
step by step, to the view that protozoa have souls, 
and if we are going to deny souls to protozoa, we 
shall, if we are evolutionists, be almost compelled 
to deny them to men. All these difficulties were at 


once apparent to the opponents of Darwin, and it 
is surprising that the opposition to him was not even 
more fierce than it was. 

Darwin's work, even though it may require correc- 
tion on many points, nevertheless affords an example 
of what is essential in scientific method, namely, the 
substitution of general laws based on evidence for 
fairy-tales embodying a fantasy of wish-fulfilment. 
Human beings find it difficult in all spheres to base 
their opinions upon evidence rather than upon their 
hopes. When their neighbours are accused of lapses 
from virtue, people find it almost impossible to wait 
for the accusation to be verified before believing it. 
When they embark upon a war, both sides believe 
that they are sure of victory. When a man puts his 
money on a horse, he feels sure that it will win. When 
he contemplates himself, he is convinced that he is 
a fine fellow who has an immortal soul. The objective 
evidence for each and all of these propositions may 
be of the slightest, but our wishes produce an almost 
irresistible tendency to believe. Scientific method 
sweeps aside our wishes and endeavours to arrive at 
opinions in which wishes play no part. There are, 
of course, practical advantages in the scientific 
method ; if this were not so, it would never have been 
able to make its way against the world of fantasy. 
The bookmaker is scientific and grows rich, whereas 
the ordinary better is unscientific and grows poor. 
And so in regard to human excellence, the belief 
that men have souls has produced a certain technique 



for the purpose of improving mankind, which, in 
spite of prolonged and expensive effort, has hitherto 
had no visible good result. The scientific study of life 
and of the human body and mind, on the contrary, 
is likely, before very long, to give us the power of 
producing improvements beyond our previous 
dreams, in the health, intelligence, and virtue of 
average human beings. 

Darwin was mistaken as to the laws of heredity, 
which have been completely transformed by the 
Mendelian theory. He had also no theory as to the 
origin of variations, and he believed them to be much 
smaller and more gradual than they have been 
found to be in certain circumstances. On these 
points modern biologists have advanced far beyond 
him, but they would not have reached the point at 
which they are but for the impetus given by his 
work; and the massiveness of his researches was 
necessary in order to impress men with the import- 
ance and inevitability of the theory of evolution. 


Each fresh advance of science into a new domain 
has produced a resistance analogous in kind to that 
encountered by Galileo, but growing gradually less 
in vehemence. Traditionalists have always hoped 
that somewhere a region would be found to which 
scientific method would prove inapplicable. After 
Newton, they abandoned the heavenly bodies in 


despair; after Darwin, most of them admitted the 
broad fact of evolution, though they continue, to 
this day, to suggest that the course of evolution has 
not been guided by mechanistic forces, but has been 
directed by a forward-looking purpose. The tape- 
worm, we are to suppose, has become what it is, not 
because it could not otherwise have survived in 
human intestines, but because it realizes an idea laid 
up in Heaven, which is part of the Divine Mind. As 
the Bishop of Birmingham says: 1 "The loathsome 
parasite is a result of the integration of mutations ; 
it is both an exquisite example of adaptation to 
environment and ethically revolting." This con- 
troversy is not yet wholly concluded, though there 
can be little doubt that mechanistic theories of 
evolution will prevail completely before long. 

One effect of the doctrine of evolution has been 
to compel men to concede to animals some portion, 
at least, of the merits that they claim for homo 
sapiens. Descartes maintained that animals are mere 
automata, while human beings have free will. Views 
of this kind have lost their plausibility, though the 
doctrine of "emergent evolution," which we shall 
consider at a later stage, is designed to rehabilitate 
the view that men differ qualitatively from other 
animals. Physiology has been the battleground 
between those who regard all phenomena as subject 
to scientific method, and those who still hope that, 
among vital phenomena, there are some, at least, 

1 Nature, November 29, 1930. 



which demand mystical treatment. Is the human 
body a mere machine, governed wholly by the 
principles of physics and chemistry? Wherever it is 
understood, it is found to be so, but there are still 
processes which are not completely understood : 
perhaps in them a vital principle will be found to 
be lurking? In this way, the champions of vitalism 
become the friends of ignorance. Let us not, they 
feel, know too much about the human body, lest 
we should discover to our dismay that we can under- 
stand it. Every fresh discovery makes this view less 
plausible, and restricts the territory still open to the 
obscurantists. There are some, however, who are 
willing to surrender the body to the tender mercies 
of the scientist, provided they can save the soul. 
The soul, we know, is immortal, and has cognizance 
of right and wrong. The soul, if it belongs to the 
right person, is aware of God. It reaches out after 
higher things, and is informed by a divine spark. 
This being the case, it surely cannot be governed 
by the laws of physics and chemistry, or, indeed, by 
any laws at all? Psychology, therefore, has been 
more obstinately defended by the enemies of scientific 
method than any other department of human know- 
ledge. Nevertheless, even psychology is becoming 
scientific ; many men have contributed to this result, 
but none more than the Russian physiologist, Pavlov. 

Pavlov was born in the year 1849, and devoted 
the bulk of his working life to the investigation 
of the behaviour of dogs. This, however, is too 



wide a statement the bulk of his work consisted 
merely of observing when dogs' mouths water, and 
how much. This illustrates one of the most impor- 
tant characteristics of scientific method, as opposed 
:o the methods of metaphysicians and theologians. 
The man of science looks for facts that are 
significant, in the sense of leading to general laws; 
ind such facts are frequently quite devoid of 
intrinsic interest. The first impression of any non- 
jcientific person, when he learns what is being done 
in some famous laboratory, is that all the investigators 
are wasting their time on trivialities; but the facts 
that are intellectually illuminating are often such as 
are, in themselves, trivial and uninteresting. This 
applies in particular to Pavlov's speciality, namely, 
the flow of saliva in dogs. By studying this, he arrived 
at general laws governing a great deal of animal 
behaviour, and of the behaviour of human beings 

The procedure is as follows. Everyone knows that 
the sight of a juicy morsel will make a dog's mouth 
water. Pavlov puts a tube into the dog's mouth, so 
that the amount of saliva to which the juicy morsel 
gives rise can be measured. The flow of saliva, when 
there is food in the mouth, is what is called a reflex ; 
that is to say, it is one of those things that the body 
does spontaneously, and without the influence of 
experience. There are many reflexes, some very 
specific, some less so. Some of these can be studied 
in new-born infants, but some only arise at later 

D 49 


stages of growth. The infant sneezes, and yawns, and 
stretches, and sucks, and turns its eyes towards a 
bright light, and performs various other bodily 
movements at the appropriate occasions, without the 
need of any previous learning. All such actions are 
called reflexes, or, in Pavlov's language, uncondi- 
tioned reflexes. They cover the ground that was 
formerly covered by the somewhat vague appellation 
of instinct. Complicated instincts, such as nest- 
building in birds, appear to consist of a series of 
reflexes. In the lower animals, reflexes are very little 
modified by experience : the moth continues to fly 
into the flame, even after it has singed its wings. 
But in higher animals, experience has a great effect 
upon reflexes, and this is most of all the case with 
man. Pavlov studied the effect of experience upon 
the salivary reflexes of dogs. The fundamental law 
in this subject is the law of conditioned reflexes : when 
the stimulus to an unconditioned reflex has been 
repeatedly accompanied, or immediately preceded, 
by some other stimulus, this other stimulus alone 
will, in time, equally produce the response which was 
originally called forth by the stimulus to the uncondi- 
tioned reflex. The flow of saliva is originally called 
forth only by the actual food in the mouth ; later on, 
it comes to be called forth by the sight and smell of 
the food, or by any signal which habitually precedes 
the giving of food. In this case, we have what is 
called a conditioned reflex ; the response is the same 
as in the unconditioned reflex, but the stimulus is a 


new one, which has become associated with the 
original stimulus through experience. This law of 
the conditioned reflex is the basis of learning, of 
what the older psychologists called the "association 
of ideas," of the understanding of language, of habit, 
and of practically everything in behaviour that is 
due to experience. 

On the basis of the fundamental law, Pavlov has 
built up, experimentally, all kinds of complications. 
He uses not only the stimulus of agreeable food, but 
also of disagreeable acids, so that he can build up 
in the dog responses of avoidance as well as responses 
of approach. Having formed a conditioned reflex by 
one set of experiments, he can proceed to inhibit 
it by another. If a given signal is followed sometimes 
by pleasant results, and sometimes by unpleasant 
ones, the dog is apt to suffer in the end a nervous 
breakdown; he becomes hysterical or neurasthenic, 
and, indeed, a typical mental patient. Pavlov does 
not cure him by making him reflect upon his infancy, 
or confess to a guilty passion for his mother, but by 
rest and bromide. He relates a story which should 
be studied by all educationists. He had a dog to 
whom he always showed a circular patch of bright 
light before giving him food, and an elliptical patch 
before giving him an electric shock. The dog learned 
to distinguish clearly between circles and ellipses, 
rejoicing in the former, and avoiding the latter with 
dismay. Pavlov then gradually diminished the 
eccentricitv of the ellipse, making it more and more 



nearly resemble a circle. For a long time the dog 
continued to distinguish clearly : 

As the form of the ellipse was brought closer and closer to that 
of the circle, we obtained more or less quickly an increasingly 
delicate differentiation. But when we used an ellipse whose two 
axes were as 9: 8, i.e. an ellipse which was nearly circular, all 
this was changed. We obtained a new delicate differentiation, 
which always remained imperfect, lasted two or three weeks, 
and afterwards not only disappeared spontaneously, but caused 
the loss of all earlier differentiations, including even the less 
delicate ones. The dog which formerly stood quietly on his 
bench, now was constantly struggling and howling. It was 
necessary to elaborate anew all the differentiations and the 
most unrefined now demanded much more time than at first. 
On attempting to obtain the final differentiation the old story 
was repeated, i.e. all the differentiations disappeared and the 
dog fell again into a state of excitation. 

I am afraid a similar procedure is habitual in 
schools, and accounts for the apparent stupidity of 
many of the scholars. 

Pavlov is of opinion that sleep is essentially the 
same thing as inhibition, being, in fact, a general, 
instead of a specific, inhibition. On the basis of his 
study of dogs, he accepts the view of Hippocrates 
that there are four temperaments, namely, choleric, 
melancholic, sanguine, and phlegmatic. The phleg- 
matic and sanguine he regards as the saner types, 
while the melancholic and choleric are liable to 

1 Lectures on Conditioned Reflexes, by Ivan Petrovitch Pavlov, M.D., 
p. 342. Translated from the Russian by W. Horsely Gantt, M.D., 
B.Sc. Published by Martin Lawrence, Limited, London. 

See also Conditioned Reflexes: an Investigation of the Physiological 
Activity of the Cerebral Cortex, by I. P. Pavlov. Translated by G. V, 
Anrep. Oxford, 1927. 



nervous disorders. He finds his dogs divisible into 
these four types, and believes the same to be true of 
human beings. 

The organ through which learning takes place is 
the cortex, and Pavlov considers himself as being 
engaged upon the study of the cortex. He is a 
physiologist, not a psychologist, but he is of opinion 
that, where animals are concerned, there cannot be 
any psychology such as we derive from introspection 
when we study human beings. With human b^fcn^s, 
it would seem that he does not go so far as Dr. 
John B. Watson. "Psychology," he says, "in so far 
as it concerns the subjective state of man, has a 
natural right to existence; for our subjective world 
is the first reality with which we are confronted. 
But though the right of existence of human 
psychology be granted, there is no reason why we 
should not question the necessity of an animal 
psychology." 1 Where animals are concerned, he is 
a pure Behaviourist, on the ground that one cannot 
know whether an animal has consciousness, or, if it 
has, of what nature this consciousness may be. In 
regard to human beings also, in spite of his theoretical 
concession to introspective psychology, all that he 
has to say is based upon his study of conditioned 
reflexes, and it is clear that, in regard to bodily 
behaviour, his position is entirely mechanistic. 

One can hardly deny that only a study of the physico-chemical 
processes taking place in nerve tissue will give us a real 

Op. cit., p. 329. 



theory of all nervous phenomena, and that the phases of this 
process will provide us with a full explanation of all the external 
manifestations of nervous activity, their consecutiveness and 
their interrelations. x 

The following quotation is interesting, not only as 
illustrating his position on this point, but as showing 
the idealistic hopes for the human race which he 
bases upon the progress of science: 

. . At the beginning of our work and for a long time after- 
wards we felt the compulsion of habit in explaining our subject 
by psychological interpretations. Every time the objective 
investigation met an obstacle, or when it was halted by the 
complexity of the problem, there arose quite naturally mis- 
givings as to the correctness of our new method. Gradually 
with the progress of our research these doubts appeared more 
rarely, and now I am deeply and irrevocably convinced that 
along this path will be found the final triumph of the human 
mind over its uttermost and supreme problem the knowledge 
of the mechanism and laws of human nature. Only thus may 
come a full, true and permanent happiness. Let the mind rise 
from victory to victory over surrounding nature, let it conquer 
for human life and activity not only the surface of the earth, 
but all that lies between the depth of the seas and the outer 
limits of the atmosphere, let it command for its service pro- 
digious energy to flow from one part of the universe to the 
other, let it annihilate space for the transference of its thoughts 
yet the same human creature, led by dark powers to wars 
and revolutions and their horrors, produces for itself incalcula- 
ble material losses and inexpressible pain, and reverts to bestial 
conditions. Only science, exact science about human nature 
itself, and the most sincere approach to it by the aid of the 
omnipotent scientific method, will deliver man from his present 
gloom, and will purge him from his contemporary shame in 
the sphere of interhuman relations. 2 

1 Op. cit., p. 349. a Op. cit., p. 41. 



In metaphysics, he is neither a materialist nor a 
mentalist. He holds the view that I firmly believe to 
be the right one, that the habit of distinguishing 
between mind and matter is a mistake, and that the 
reality may be considered as both or neither with 
equal justice. "We are now coming," he says, "to 
think of the mind, the soul, and matter as all one, 
and with this view there will be no necessity for a 
choice between them." 

As a human being, Pavlov has the simplicity and 
regularity of learned men of an earlier time, such 
as Immanuel Kant. He lived a quiet home life, 
and was invariably punctual at his laboratory. 
Once, during the Revolution, his assistant was ten 
minutes late, and adduced the Revolution as an 
excuse, but Pavlov replied : "What difference does 
a Revolution make when you have work in the 
laboratory to do?" The only allusion to the troubles 
of Russia to be found in his writings is in connection 
with the difficulty of feeding his animals during the 
years of food-shortage. Although his work has been 
such as might be held to give support to the official 
metaphysic of the Communist Party, he thought 
very ill of the Soviet government, and denounced it 
vehemently both publicly and privately. In spite of 
this, the Government treated him with every con- 
sideration, and supplied his laboratory generously 
with everything that he needed. 

It is typical of the modern attitude in science, as 
compared with that of Newton, or even Darwin, 



that Pavlov has not attempted a statuesque perfec- 
tion in the presentation of his theories. "The reason 
that I have not given a systematic exposition of our 
results during the last twenty years is the following. 
The field is an entirely new one, and the work has 
constantly advanced. How could I halt for any 
comprehensive conception, to systematize the results, 
when each day new experiments and observations 
brought us additional facts!" 1 The rate of progress 
in science nowadays is much too great for such 
works as Newton's Principia, or Darwin's Origin of 
Species. Before such a book could be completed, it 
would be out of date. In many ways this is regrettable, 
for the great books of the past possessed a certain 
beauty and magnificence which is absent from the 
fugitive papers of our time, but it is an inevitable 
consequence of the rapid increase of knowledge, and 
must therefore be accepted philosophically. 

Whether Pavlov's methods can be made to cover 
the whole of human behaviour is open to question, 
but at any rate they cover a very large field, and 
within this field they have shown how to apply 
scientific methods with quantitative exactitude. He 
has conquered a new sphere for exact science, and 
must therefore be regarded as one of the great men 
of our time. The problem which Pavlov successfully 
tackled is that of subjecting to scientific law what 
has hitherto been called voluntary behaviour. Two 
animals of the same species, or one animal on two 

1 Op. cit., p. 42. 


different occasions, may respond differently to the 
same stimulus. This gave rise to the idea that there 
is something called a will, which enables us to 
respond to situations capriciously and without scien- 
tific regularity. Pavlov's study of the conditioned 
reflex has shown how behaviour which is not deter- 
mined by the congenital constitution of an animal 
may nevertheless have its own rules, and be as 
capable of scientific treatment as is the behaviour 
governed by unconditioned reflexes. As Professor 
Hogben says : 

In our generation, the work of Pavlov's school has successfully 
tackled, for the first time in history, the problem of what 
Dr. Haldane calls "conscious behaviour" in non-teleological 
terms. It has reduced it to the investigation of the conditions 
under which new reflex systems are brought into being. * 

The more this achievement is studied, the more 
important it is seen to be, and it is on this account 
that Pavlov must be placed among the most eminent 
men of our time. 

* Hogben, The Nature of Living Matter, 1930, p. 25. 





SCIENTIFIC method has been often described, and it 
is not possible, at this date, to say anything very new 
about it. Nevertheless, it is necessary to describe it 
if we are to be in a position later to consider whether 
any other method of acquiring general knowledge 

In arriving at a scientific law there are three main 
stages: the first consists in olSserving the significant 
facts ; the seconcTin arriving at a hypothesis, which, 
if it is tmcT^ouIcTaccouHt for TKcscTacts.; tEe third 
Tn^Heducirig from this hypothesis consequences 
which can be tested by observation. If the cons- 
quenceTaTf verified, QIC hypolhcsis~is provisionally 
accepted as true, although it will usually require, 
modification later on as the result of thejiiscoj^ery^ 
of further facts. 

In the existing, state of science, no.facjts_and jip 
hypotheses are isolated ; they exist within the general 
body of scientific Jmowleclge.. The significance, of a 
fact is relative to such frnnwlfidff" Tojsay JthatA -fact 
is significant in science, is to say that it helps to 
establish or refute some general law: 
though it starts from observation of thej>aj 
nolfZoncernecl essentially with the_ 



with the general. A fact, in science, is not a mere 
fact, but an instance^ In this the scientist differs 
from the artist, who, if he deigns^ to notice facts at 
all, is likely to notice them in all their particularity. 
Science, in^ts^jiliimaJ^idejJjCO of a set of 

propositions arnmgl__in^ji_Jiie^^ 
levcfof the hierar^iiybein^cjanc^^ 

trie highest with some general law, 

e various 

governing everything in the umverse 

Is intKe hiera3x!hy^Tiavea^ 
connection, travelling one up, one down ; the upward 
connection proceeds by induction, the downward by 
deduction. That is to say, in a perfected science, we 
should proceed as follows : the particular iacts, 
A, B, C, D, ctc.^suggest j.js^ ^ certain 
general law^jrf whjch^iJit J&jjue,, tb^y are all 

Another set of facts suggests another 
general law, and so on. All these general laws 
suggest, by induction, a law of a higher order of 
generality of which, if it is true, they are instances. 
There will be many such stages in passing from the 
particular facts observed to the most general law as 
yet ascertained. From this general law we proceed 
in turn deductively, until we arrive at the particular 
facts from which our previous induction had started. 
In textbooks the _dgd.uctjye_ordcr will bc^ 

thjg i 

The only science which has, as yet, come anywhere 
near this perfection is physics. The consideration of 
physics may help us to give concreteness to the above 



abstract account of scientific method. Galileo, as we 
saw, discovered the law of falling bodies in the 
neighbourhood of the earth's surface. He discovered 
that, apart from the resistance of the air, they fall 
with a constant acceleration, whieh is the same for 
all. This was a generalization from a comparatively 
small number of facts, namely, the cases of actual 
falling bodies which Galileo had timed; but his 
generalization was confirmed by all subsequent 
experiments of a like nature. Galileo's result was a 
law of the lowest order of generality, as little removed 
from the crude facts as a general law could be. 
Meanwhile, Kepler had observed the motions of the 
planets, and formulated his three laws as to their 
orbits. These, again, were laws of the lowest order 
of generality. Newton collected together Kepler's 
laws and Galileo's law of falling bodies, and the laws 
of the tides, and what was known as to the motions 
of comets, in one law, namely; the law of gravitation, 
which embraced them all. This law, moreover, as 
usually happens with * a successful generalization, 
showed not merely why the previous laws were right, 
but also why tney were not quite right. Bodies near 
the earth's surface do not fall with an acceleration 
which is quite constant : as they approach the earth, 
the acceleration is slightly increased. Planets do not 
move exactly in ellipses : when they approach near 
to other planets, they-are pulled a little out of their 
orbits. Thus Newton's law of gravitation superseded 

the older generalizations, but could scarcely have 


been arrived at except from them. For over two 
hundred years no new generalization was found to 
swallow up Newton's law of gravitation, as it had 
swallowed up Kepler's laws. When, at last, Einstein 
arrived at such a generalization it placed the law 
of gravitation in the most unexpected company. 
To everybody's surprise, it was found to be a law of 
geometry rather than of physics in the old sense. The 
proposition with which it has most affinity is the 
theorem of Pythagoras, to the effect that the squares 
on the two shorter sides of a right-angled triangle 
are together equal to the square on the longest side. 
Every schoolboy learns the proof of this proposition, 
but only those who read Einstein learn the disproof. 
To the Greeks and to the moderns until a hundred 
years ago geometry was an a priori study like formal 
logic, not an empirical science based upon observa- 
tion. Lol>aclieysky, in the year 1829, dcmom&atad, 
the falsehood of this opinion, and showed that the 
.truth of Euclidean geometry could only be e.s,tah- 
lishcd by observation, not by reasoning. Although 
this view gave rise to important new branches of 
pure mathematics, it did not bear fruit in physics 
until the year 1915, when Einstein embodied it in 
his general theory of relativity. It now appears that 
the theorem of Pythagorasisnot ciuite true, and that 
the exact truth which it &djimbratS^contains within 
itself the law of gravitation as an ingredient or conse- 
quence. Again, it is not quite Newton's law of 
gravitation, but a law whose observable consequences 



are slightly different. Where Einstein differs from 
Newton in an observable manner it is found that 
Einstein is right as against Newton. Einstein's law 
of gravitation is more general than Newton's, since 
it applies not only to matter, but also to light and to 
every form of energy. Einstein's general jtheory ^f 
gravitation demanded_as a preliminary not only 
Newton's theory, but also the theory of electro- 
magnetism, the science of spectroscopy, observation' 
oT' light pressure, and the power of minute astro- 
nnrnirql observation, which we owe to large tele- 
scopes and the perfecting of the technique of 
photography. Without all these preliminaries, 
Einstein's theory could not have been both dis- 
covered and demonstrated. But when the theory is 
set forth in mathematical form we start with the 
generalized law of gravitation, and arrive at the end 
of our argument at those verifiable consequences 
upon which, in the inductive order, the law was 
based. In the deductive order, the difficulties of 
discovery are obscured, and it becomes hard to be 
aware of the immense extent of preliminary know- 
ledge required for the induction which led to our 
major premise. The same sort of development has 
happened with a rapidity which is truly astonishing 
in regard to quantum theory. The first discovery 
that there were facts necessitating such a theory was 
made in 1900, yet already the subject can be treated 
in an utterly abstract way which scarcely reminds 

the reader that a universe exists. 


Throughout the history of physics, from the time 
of Galileo onward, the importance of the significant 
fact has been very evident. The facts that are 

jgpB^pi.-*^~vv~ i 

significant at any one stage in the development _pf 

those .that. .are 

significant at another ^tage^ When Galileo was 
establishing the law of falling bodies, the fact that 
in a vacuum a feather and a lump of lead fall 
equally fast was more important than the fact that, 
in air, a feather falls more slowly, since the first 
step in understanding falling bodies consisted in 
realizing that, so far as the earth's attraction alone 
is concerned, all falling bodies have the same 
acceleration. The effect of the resistance of the air 
must be treated as something superadded to the 
earth's attraction. The essential thing is always to 
look for such facts as illustrate one law in isolation, 
or, at any rate, only in combination with laws whose 
effects are well known. This is why experiment 
plays such an important part in scientific discovery. 
In an experiment the circumstances are artificially 
simplified, so that some one law in isolation may 

become observable. In most concrete situations, 

what actually happens requires for its explanation 

a~~humber of laws of nature, but in order to discover 
these one by jme it is usually necessary to indent 
circumstances such that only one of them is relevant. 
Moreover, the most instructive phenomena may be 
very difficult to observe. Consider, for example, how 
much our knowledge of matter has been enhanced 



by the discovery of X-rays and of radio-activity ; yet 
both of these would have remained unknown but for 
the most elaborate experimental technique. The 
discovery of radio-activity was an accident due to 
the perfecting of photography. Bccquerel had some 
very sensitive photographic plates, which he was 
meaning to employ ; but as the weather was bad, he 
put them away in a dark cupboard in which there 
happened to be some uranium. When they were 
taken out again they were found to have photo- 
graphed the uranium, in spite of the complete 
darkness. It was this accident which led to the 
discovery that uranium is radio-active. This acci- 
dentarphotograph affords another illustration of the 
significant fact. 

Outside physics, the part played by deduction is 
much less, while the part played by observation, and 
by laws immediately based upon observation, is 
much greater. Physics, owing to the simplicity of 
its subject matter, has reached a higher stage of 
development than any other science. I do not think 
it can be doubted that the ideal is the same for all 
sciences; but it can be doubted whether human 
capacity will ever be able to make physiology, for 
example, as perfect a deductive edifice as theoretical 
physics is now. Even in pure physics the difficulties 
of calculation swiftly become insuperable. In the 
Newtonian gravitation theory it was impossible to 
calculate how three bodies would move under their 
mutual attractions, except approximately when one 



of them was much Jargcr than the other two. In 
the theory of Einstein, which is much more compli- 
cated than Newton's, it is impossible to work out 
with theoretical exactness even how two bodies 
will move under their mutual attraction, though it 
is possible to obtain a sufficiently good approxima- 
tion for all practical purposes, fortunately for- 
physics there arc methods of averaging, by which^ 
the behaviour of large bodies can be calculated 
with a quite sufficient approximation to the _truth, 
although a wholly exact theory is utterly beyond 
human powers. 

Although this may seem a paradox, all exact 
science is dominated by jhcjdea of approximation. 
Wfie"n a man tells you that he knows the exact truth 
aSbut anything, you are safe in inferring that he 
is an inexact man. Eycry_carcful measurcmcnMn 
science 7 Is always given with the probable error, 
which is a technical term, conveyirig^ a precise 
meaning. ~It means": that amount of error which is 
just as likely to be greater than the actual error as 
:o be less. It is characteristic of those matters in 
which something is known with exceptional accuracy 
that, in them, every observer admits that he is likely 
to be wrong, and knows about how much wrong he 
is likely to be. 1 In matters where the truth is not 

1 The following extract from Nature (February 7, 1931) is typical 
of t&e cautious attitude of men of science wherever careful measure- 
ment is possible : 

ROTATION PERIOD OF URANUS. The two most trustworthy 
determinations of this period were those made by Profs. Lowell and 

E 65 


asccrtainable, no one admits that there is the 
slightest possibility of even the minutest error in his 
opinions. Who ever heard of a theologian prefacing 
his creed, or a politician concluding his speeches, 
with a statement as to the probable error in his 
opinions? It is an odd fact that subjective certainty 
is inversely proportional to objective certainty. The 
less reason a man has to suppose himself in the right, 
the"~more vehemently he asserts that there is no 
d o~ubt whatev^er_thaf Tie. JiL .exa5Iy~~^^g^ t ~^ f 1>s a 
practice of theologians to laugh at science because 
it changes. "Look at us," they say. "What we 
asserted at the Council of Nicea we still assert; 
whereas what the scientists asserted only two or 
three years ago is already forgotten and antiquated." 
Men who speak in this way have not grasped the 
great idea of successive approximations. No man 
who has the scientific temper asserts that what is 
now believed in science is exactly right; he asserts 
that it is a stage on the road towards the exact truth. 

Slipher at Flagstaff in 1911, and that of Mr. L. Campbell in 1917; 
the former was spectroscopic, the latter by light-variation. The 
results were practically identical, loh. 50 m. and loh. 49 m. 
respectively. But there was considered to be room for a further 
investigation, since the indicated probable error of the spectroscopic 
method was 1 7 minutes, and the light-variation was not confirmed 
by several other observers. It may, however, have been produced by 
a temporary marking. Pub. Ast. Soc. Pac. for December contains an 
account of a new spectroscopic determination made by Messrs. 
Moore and Menzel. They used a higher dispersion than Lowell and 
Slipher, also the equator of Uranus is more nearly central on the disc. 
Their weighted mean is 10 h. 50 m. with a probable error of 10 m. ; 
but in spite of the close accord with the previous results, they do not 
consider that the period is certainly known within several minutes. 


When a change occurs in science, as, for example, 
from Newton's law of gravitation to Einstein's, 
what had been done is not overthrown, but is 
replaced by something slightly more accurate. Sup- 
pose you measured yourself with a rough apparatus, 
and came to the conclusion that you were 6 ft. tall : 
you would not suppose, if you were wise, that your 
height was exactly 6 ft., but rather that your height 
was (say) between 5 ft. 1 1 in. and 6 ft. I in. ; and if 
a very careful measurement showed that your height 
was (within a tenth of an inch) 5 ft. u^o in. you 
would not consider that that had overthrown the 
previous result. The previous result was that your 
height was about six feet, and this remains true. The 
case with the changes in science is precisely analo- 

ut is, I think, sometimes 
overestimated. Mathematical technique is powerful, 
and men of science are naturally anxious to be able 
to apply it whenever possible; but a law may be 
quite scientific without being quantitative. Pavlov's 
laws concerning conditioned reflexes may serve as 
an illustration. It would probably be impossible to 
give quantitative precision to these laws ; the number 
of repetitions required to establish conditioned 
reflexes depends upon many conditions, and varies 
not only with different animals, but with the same 
animal at different times. In the pursuit of quan- 
titative precision we should be driven first to the 



physiology of the cortex and the physical nature of 
nerve-currents, and we should find ourselves unable 
to stop short of the physics of electrons and protons. 
There, it is true, quantitative precision may be 
possible, but to pass back by calculation from pure 
physiCTTo the' phenomena of animal behaviour *is 
beyond human power, at any rate at present, and 
probably for many ages to come. We must, therefore, 
in dealing with such a matter as animal behaviour, 
be content in the meantime with qualitative laws 
which are none the less scientific for not being 

One advantage of quantitative recision, whrre it 

| g___ 1 ^ 
is possible is that it gives r"~h 

inductive arguments. Suppose, for example, that 
yOU invent aliypothesis, according to which a certain 
observable quantity should have a magnitude 
which you work out to five significant figures; and 
suppose you then find by observation that the 
quantity in question has this magnitude. You will 
feel that such a coincidence between theory and 
observation can hardly be an accident, and that your 
theory must contain at least some important element 
of truth. Experience shows, however, that it is easy 
to attach too much importance to such coincidences. 
Bohr's theory of the atom was originally commended 
by a remarkable power of calculating theoretically 
certain quantities which had until then been known 
only by .observation. Nevertheless, Bohr's theory, 
though a necessary stage in progress, has already 


been virtually abandoned. The truth is, that men 
cannot frame sufficiently abstract hypotheses; 
imagination is always intruding upon logic, and 
causing men to make pictures of occurrences which 
are essentially incapable of being visualized. In 
Bohr's theory of the atom, for example, there was a 
highly abstract constituent, which was in all likeli- 
hood true, but this abstract element was embedded 
in imaginative details which had no inductive 
justification. The world that we can picture is the 
world that we see ; but the world of physics is an 
abstract world that cannot be seen. For this reason, 
even a hypothesis which accounts with a minute 
exactitude for all known relevant facts must not be 
regarded as certainly true, since it is probably only 
some highly abstract aspect of the hypothesis that is 
logically necessary in the deductions which we make 
from it to observable phenomena. 

All scientific laws rest upon induction, which, 
considered as a logical process, is open to doubt, 
and not capable of giving certainty. Speaking^ 
crudely, an inductive argument is of the following 
kind. If a certain hypothesis is true, then such and 
such facts will be observable; now these facts are 
bbservable, therefore the hypothesis is .probably 
titfe. An argument of this sort will have varying 
3cgriees *oF validity according^ to circumstances, 4 
we could prove that no other hypothesis was com- 
patible with the observed facts we could arrive at 
:ertainty, but this is hardly ever possible. In genera! 



there will be no method of thinking of all the possible 
hypotheses, or, if there is, it will be found that more 
than one of them is compatible with the facts. 
When this is the case, the scientist adopts the simplest 
as a working hypothesis, and only reverts to more 
complicated hypotheses if new facts show that the 
simplest hypothesis is inadequate. If you had never 
seen a cat without a tail, the simplest hypothesis to 
account for this fact would be : "all cats have tails" ; 
but the first time that you saw a Manx cat, you 
would be compelled to adopt a more complicated 
hypothesis. The man who argues that because all 
cats he has seen have tails, therefore all cats have 
tails, is employing what is callc^l "indiictmn hy 
simple enumeration." This is a very dangerous form 
of argument. In its better forms, induction is based 
upon the fact that our hypothesis leads to conse- 
qulSes" which are found to be true, hut which, if 
they had not bcjgn^observcd^j^Qj.ild seem extremely 
improbable. If you meet a man who has a pair of 
dice thafalways throw double sixes, it is possible 
that he is lucky; but there is another hypothesis 
which would make the observed facts less astonishing. 
You will therefore be well advised to adopt this other 
hypothesis. In all good inductions, the facts accounted 
for by the hypothesis are such as would be ante- 
cedently improbable, and the more improbable they 
would be, the greater becomes the probability of the 
hypothesis which accounts for them. This, as we 
remarked a moment ago, is one of the advantages of 


measurement. If something which might have any 
size is found to have just the size that your hypothesis 
had led you to expect, you feel that your hypothesis 
must at least have something in it. As common sense 
this seems evident, but as logic it has certain diffi- 
culties. This, however, we will not consider until 
the next chapter. 
There is one remaining characteristic of scientific 

jiamcly, analysis. It is generally assumed by men of 
science, at anyTate as a working hypothesis, that any 
concrete occurrence is the resultant of a number of 
causes, each of which, acting separately, might 
produce some different result from that which 
actually occurs; and that the resultant can be 
calculated when the effects of the separate causes are 
known. The simplest examples of this occur in 
mechanics. The moon is attracted both by the earth 
and by the sun. If the earth acted alone, the moon 
would describe one orbit ; if the sun acted alone, it 
would describe another; but its actual orbit is 
calculable when we know the effects which the earth 
and the sun separately would produce. When we 
know how bodies fall in a vacuum, and also the law 
of the resistance of the air, we can calculate how 
bodies will fall in air. The principle that causal 
laws can, in this way, be separated and then 
recombined, is in some degree essential to the 
procedure of science, for it is. impossible, to take 
accoun of everything at once^ or to arrive jit_cjuqsal 



laws unless we can isolate them one at a time. It 
must be said, however, that there is no reason 
a priori to suppose that the effect of two causes, acting 
simultaneously, will be calculable from the effects 
which they have severally; and in the most modern 
physics this principle is found to have less truth 
than was formerly supposed. 1 It remains a practical 
and approximate principle in suitable circumstances, 
but it cannot be laid down as a general property of 
the universe. Undoubtedly, where it fails, science 
becomes very difficult ; but, so far as can be seen at 
present, it retains sufficient truth to be employed as 
a hypothesis, except in the most advanced and 
delicate calculations. 

1 Sec, e.g., Dirac, The Principles of Quantum Mechanics, p. 130. 


WHATEVER knowledge we possess is either knowledge 

- -x_i-i_ - _ - \^\j^ "*2- ^^-Aj-^x^-^. N^^^^"*-^** -> - -^~ 

of Particular facts or sciwiti^c^l^ow^ledge. The 
details of history and geography lie outside science 
in a sense; that is to say, they are presupposed by 
science, and form the basis upon which it is a super- 
structure. The sort of things that are demanded on 
a passport, such as name, date of birth, colour of 
grandfather's eyes, etc., are brute facts; the past 
existence of Caesar and Napoleon, the present 
existence of the earth and the sun and the other 
heavenly bodies, may also be regarded as brute 
facts. That is to say, most of us accept them as such, 
but strictly speaking they involve inferences which 
may, or may not, be correct. If a boy learning 
history were to refuse to believe in the existence of 
Napoleon, he would probably be punished, which 
might, for a pragmatist, constitute sufficient proof 
that there was such a man ; but if the boy were not 
a pragmatist, he might reflect that if his teacher had 
had any reason to believe in Napoleon, the reason 
might have been disclosed. Very few teachers of 
history, I believe, would be able to produce any 
good argument to show that Napoleon was not a 
myth. I am not saying that such arguments do not 
exist; I am only saying that most people do not 



know what they are. Clearly, if you are going to 
believe anything outside your own experience, you 
should have some reason for believing it. Usually the 
reason is authority. When it was first proposed to 
establish laboratories at Cambridge, Todhunter, the 
mathematician, objected that it was unnecessary 
for students to see experiments performed, since the 
results could be vouched for by their teachers, all 
of them men of the highest character, and many of 
them clergymen of the Church of England. Tod- 
hunter considered that the argument from authority 
should suffice, but we all know how often authority 
has been proved mistaken. It is true that most of us 
must inevitably depend upon it for most of our 
knowledge. I accept on authority the existence of 
Cape Horn, and it is clearly impossible that each 
of us should verify all the facts of geography; but it 
is important that the opportunity for verification 
should' exist, and that its occasional necessity should 
be recognized. 

To revert to history: as we proceed into the past 
there is a gradually increasing doubt. Did Pythagoras 
exist? Probably. Did Romulus exist? Probably not. 
Did Remus exist? Almost certainly not. But the 
difference between the evidence for Napoleon and 
the evidence for Romulus is only one of degree. 
Strictly speaking, neither the one nor the other can 
be accepted as mere matter of fact, since_jieither 

Does the sun exist? Most people would say that 


L 1 M 1 1 A 1 1 O IM S OF S U 1 E JN T 1 F I U M E 1 JH U JJ 

the sun does come within our direct experience in 
a sense in which Napoleon does not, but in thinking 
this they would be mistaken. The sun is removed 
from us in space as Napoleon is removed from us in 
time. The sun, like Napoleon, is known to us only 
through its effects. People say they see the sun ; but 
that only means that something has travelled through 
the intervening ninety-three million miles, and pro- 
duced an effect upon the retina, the optic nerve, and 
the brain. This effect, which happens where we are, is 
certainly not identical with the sun as understood 
by astronomers. Indeed, the same effect might be 
produced by other means : in theory, a hot globe of 
molten metal could be hung up in such a position 
that, to a given observer, it would seem just like the 
sun. The effect upon the observer might be made 
indistinguishable from the effect which the sun 
produces. The sun, therefore, is an inferencefrom 

^^^^N^^Sfc*' v^* i * ^i MI * ^ 

alTpatch of brightness 

- >fc^-^^ *^* SJ * ~. * 

[t is characteristic of the advance of science that 
less and less is found to be datum, and more and more 
is found to be inference. The inference is, of course, 
quite unconscious, except in those who have trained 
themselves to philosophical scepticism; but it must 
not be supposed that an unconscious inference is 
necessarily valid. Babies think that there is another 
baby on the other side of the looking-glass, and 
although they have not arrived at this conclusion 
by a logical process, it is nevertheless mistaken. 



Many of our unconscious inferences, which are, in 
fact, conditioned reflexes acquired in early infancy, 
are highly dubious as soon as they are subjected to 
logical scrutiny. Physics has been compelled by its 
own necessities to take account* of some of these 
unwarrantable prejudices. The plain man thinks 
that matter is solid, but the physicist thinks that it is 
a wave of probability undulating in nothingness. 
To put it briefly, the matter in a place is defined as 
the likelihood of your seeing a ghost there. For the 
moment, however, I am not yet concerned with these 
metaphysical speculations, but with the features of 
scientific method which have given rise to them. 
The limitations of scientific method have become 
much more evident in recent years than they ever 
were before. They have become most evident in 
physics, which is the most advanced of the sciences, 
and so far these limitations have had little effect 
upon the other sciences. Nevertheless, since it is the 
theoretical goal of every science to be absorbed in 
physics, we are not likely to go astray if we apply to 
science in general the doubts and difficulties which 
have become obvious in the sphere of physics. 

The limitations of scientific method may be 
collected under three heads: (i) thedouj 
validity nf inHnfj-mn ^7o) the difficulty of drawing- 
inferences from what is experienced to what is not 
experienced ;and (3) even allowing that there can 
beTnlerence""to"what is not experienced, the fact that 
such inference must be of an extremely abstract 



character, and gives, therefore, less information than 
it appears to do when ordinary language is employed., 
(i) Induction. All inductive arguments in the 
last resort reduce themselves to the following form : 
"If this is true, that is true : now that is true, therefore 
this is true." This argument is, of course, formally 
fallacious. Suppose I were to say: "If bread is a 
stone and stones are nourishing, then this bread will 
nourish me ; now this bread does nourish me ; 
therefore it is a stone, and stones are nourishing." 
If I were to advance such an argument, I should 
certainly be thought foolish, yet it would not be 
fundamentally different from the arguments upon 
which all scientific laws are based. In scienr.^ we 
always argue that since the observed fo r ts, oj^y- 
certain laws, therefore other facts in the sam 
the same 

will opey the same laws. We may verify this subse- 
quently over a greater or smaller region, but its 
practical importance is always in regard to those 
regions where it has not yet been verified. We have 
verified the laws of statics, for example, in countless 
cases, and we employ them in building a bridge; 
in regard to the bridge, they are not verified until 
we find that the bridge stays up, but their impor- 
tance lies in enabling us to predict beforehand that 
the bridge will stay up. It is easy to see why we think 
it will ; this is merely an example of Pavlov's condi- 
tioned reflexes, which cause us to expect whatever 
combinations we have frequently experienced in 
the past. But if you have to cross a bridge in a train, 



it is no comfort to you to know why the engineer 
thought it was a good bridge : the important thing 
is that it should be a good bridge, and this requires 
that his induction from the laws of statics in observed 
cases to the same laws in unobserved cases should 
be a valid one. 

Now, unfortunately, no one has hitherto shown 
any good reason for supposing that this sort of 
inference is sound. Hume, nearly two hundred 
years ago, threw doubt upon induction, as, indeed, 
upon most other things. The philosophers were 
indignant, and invented refutations of Hume which 
passed muster on account of their extreme obscurity. 
Indeed, for a long time philosophers took care to be 
unintelligible, since otherwise everybody would have 
perceived that they had been unsuccessful in 
answering Hume. It is easy to invent a metaphysic 
which will have as a consequence that induction is 
valid, and many men have done so; but they have 
not shown any reason to believe in their metaphysic 
except that it was pleasant. The, metaphvsic of 

^fH^^*"***^^***** i 1 MIH "M;; ** 

"Rejgsnn fnr p^nmjik, is undoubtedly pTeasaiit! like 
cocktails^ it enables us to see the world as a unity 
without sharp (distinctions, and all of it vaguely 
agrceable 7 but it has no better claim than cocktails" 
have to be included in the technique for the pursuit 
t There may be valid grounds for 

believing in induction, and, in fact, none of us can 
help believing in it, but it must be admitted that, jn 

theory, induction remains an unsolved problem of 

7 a " - " "~~ ' """" 


this doubt, however, affects practically the 
whole of our knowledge, we may pass it by, and 
assume pragmatically that inductive procedure, 
with proper safeguards, is admissible. 

(2) Inferences to what is not Experienced. As we 
observed above, what is actually experienced is 
much less than one would naturally suppose. You 
may say, for example, that you see your friend, Mr. 
Jones," walking along the street; but this is to go 
far beyond what you have any right to say. You 
see a succession of coloured patches, traversing a 
stationary background. These patches, by means of 
a Pavlov conditioned reflex, bring into your mind 
the word "Jones," and so you say you see Jones ; but 
other people, looking out of their windows from 
different angles, will see something different, owing 
to the laws of perspective : therefore, if they arc all 
seeing Jones, there must be as many different 
Joneses as there are spectators, and if there is only 
one true Jones, the sight of him is not vouchsafed to 
anybody. If we assume for a moment the truth of the 
account which physics gives, we shall explain what 
you call "seeing Jones" in some such terms as the 
following. Little packets of light, called "light 
quanta," shoot out from the sun, and some of these 
reach a region where there are atoms of a certain 
kind, composing Jones's face, and hands, and clothes. 
These atoms do not themselves exist, but are merely 
a compendious way of alluding to possible occur- 
rences. Some of the light quanta, when they reach 



Jones's atoms, upset their internal economy. This 
causes him to become sunburnt, and to manufacture 
vitamin D. Others are reflected, and of those that 
are reflected, some enter your eye. They there cause 
a complicated disturbance of the rods and cones, 
which, in turn, sends a current along the optic nerve. 
When this current reaches the brain, it produces an 
event. The event which it produces is that which you 
call "seeing Jones." As is evident from this account, 
the connection of "seeing Jones" with Jones is a 
remote, roundabout causal connection. Jones him- 
self, meanwhile, remains wrapped in mystery. He 
may be thinking about his dinner, or about how his 
investments have gone to pieces, or about that 
umbrella he lost ; these thoughts are Jones, but these 
are not what you see. To say that you see Jones is no 
more correct than it would be, if a ball bounced off 
a wall in your garden and hit you, to say that the 
wall had hit you. Indeed, the two cases are closely 

We do not, therefore, ever see what we think we 
see. Is there any reason to think that what we think 
we see exists, although we do not see it? Science has 
ajwjiys prided jtsclf on being empirical 

only ^at^eMJjje^yprifjed^ Now you can verify the 
occurrences in yourself which you call "seeing 
Jones," but you cannot verify Jones himself. You 
may hear sounds which you call Jones speaking to 
you ; you may feel sensations of touch which you 

call Jones bumping into you. If he has not lately 


had a bath, you may also have olfactory sensations 
of which you suppose him to be the source. If you 
have been impressed by this argument, you may 
address him as if we were at the other end of the 
telephone, and say, "Are you there?" And you may 
subsequently hear the words : "Yes, you idiot, 
can't you see me?" But if you regard these as aflbrd- 
ing evidence that he is there, you have missed the 
point of the argument. The point is that Tones JSJL 
convenient hypothesisjby means of which certain of 
your own sen^ati^ns^^an^be collected into. a bundle; 
but what really makes them belong together is not 
their common hypothetical origin, but certain 
resemblances and causal affinities which they have 
to each other. These remain, even if their common 
origin is mythical. When you see a man in the 
cinema, you know that he does not exist when he is 
off the stage, though you suppose that there was an 
original who did exist continuously. But why should 
you make this supposition? Why should not Jones 
be like the man you see at the cinema? He may get 
annoyed with you if you suggest such an idea, but 
he will be powerless to disprove it, since he cannot 
give you any experience of what he is doing when 
you do not experience him. 

Is there any way of proving that there are occur- 
rences other than those that you yourself experience? 
This is a question of some emotional interest, but 
the theoretical physicist of the present day would 

consider it unimportant. "My formulae," he would 

p 81 


say, "are concerned to provide causal laws connect- 
ing my sensations. In the statement of these causal 
laws I may employ hypothetical entities; but the 
question whether these entities are more than 
hypothetical is otiose, since it lies outside the sphere 
of possible verification." At a pinch, he may admit 
that other physicists exist, since he wishes to use 
their results; and, having admitted physicists, he 
may be led by politeness to admit students of other 
sciences. He may, in fact, form an argument by 
analogy to prove that, just as his body is connected 
with his thoughts, so bodies closely resembling his 
own are probably also connected with thoughts. It 
may be questioned how much strength there is in 
this argument; but, even if it be admitted, it does 
not allow us to conclude that the sun and stars exist, 
or, indeed, any lifeless matter. We are, in fact, led 
to the position of Berkeley, according to which only 
thoughts exist. Berkeley saved the universe and the 
permanence of bodies by regarding them as God's 
thoughts, but this was only a wish-fulfilment, not 
logical thinking. However, as he was at once a bishop 
and an Irishman, we ought not to be too hard on 
him. The fact is that scicn_started_jwith a large 
amj3uj^cJl^j3JL.Sa^ faith, ' ' 

whjch igajnjac tg thqught_dominatcd by the principle 

of the conditioned reflex. It was this animal faith 

~~- - t - * r _ 

that_ enabled physicists to believe in a world of 
matter. Gradually they have turned traitor, like men 

who, from studying the history of kings, have 


become republicans. The physicists of our day no 
longer believe in matter. That in itself, however, 
would be no great loss, provided we could still have 
a large and varied external world, but unfortunately 
they have not supplied us with any reason for 
believing in a non-material external world. 

The problem is not essentially one for the physicist, 
but for the logician. It is, in essence, a simple one, 
namely: are circumstances ever such as to enable 
us, from a set of known events, to infer that some 
other event has occurred, is occurring, or will 
occur? Or, if we cannot make such an inference with 
certainty, can we ever make it with any high degree 
of probability, or at any rate with a probability 
greater than a half? If the answer to this question 
is in the affirmative, we may be justified in believing, 
as we all do in fact believe, in the occurrence of 
events which we have not personally experienced. 
If the answer is in the negative, we can never be 
justified in our belief. Logicians have hardly ever 
considered this question in its naked simplicity, and 
I do not know of any clear answer to it. Until an 
answer is forthcoming, one way or another, the 
question must remain an open one, and our faith 
in the external world must be merely animal faith. / 

(3) The Abstractness of Physics. Even allowing that 

^f - * 

the sun, the stajs, and the material world generally, 
are not a figment of our imagination, or a set of 
convenient coefficients in our equations, what cajx 
be said about them is extraordinarily abstract, 



much more so than appears from the language 
employed by physicists when they attempt to be 
intelligible. The space and time that they deal with 
are not the space and time of our experience. The 
orbits of the planets do not resejnble the pictorial 
ellipses which we see drawn in charts of the solar 
system, except in certain quite abstract properties. 
It is possible that the relation of contiguity which 
occurs in our experience may be extended to the 
bodies of the physical world, but other relations 
known in experience are not themselves known to 
exist in the physical world. The most that can be 
known, and that only on the most hopeful view, is 
that there are certain relations in the physical world 
which share certain abstract logical characteristics 
with the relations that we know. The characteristics 
which they share are those that can be expressed 
mathematically, not those that distinguish them 
imaginatively from other relations. Take, for 
example, what there is in common between a 
gramophone record and the music that it plays ; the 
two share certain structural properties which can 
be expressed in abstract terms, but they do not share 
any properties that are obvious to the senses. In 
virtue of their structural similarity, the one can 
cause the other. Similarly, a physical world sharing 
the structure of our sensible world can cause it, even 
though it may resemble it in nothing except struc- 
ture. At best, therefore, we can only know concerning 
the physical world such properties as the gramophone 


record and the music have in common, not such as 
distinguish them one from the other. jQrdinajy 
language is totally unsuited for expressing what 
physics really asserts, since the words of everyday 
Hfe arc nofsumciently abstract. Only mathematics 
and mathematical logic can say as little as the 
rjhysicist means to say. As soon as he translates his 
symbols into words, he inevitably says something 
much too concrete, and gives his readers a cheerful 
impression of something imaginable and intelligible, 
which is much more pleasant and everyday than 
what he is trying to convey. 

Many people have a passionate hatred of ahs.tra.C- 
tjtm7 chjcJiy,L_tliink, bc"cause of its intellectual 
difficulty: but, as they dp not wish to g^ve this ;_ reason, 
they invent all sorts of others that sound grand. They 
say that all reality is concrete, and that in making 
ahstracHoiTs' 'we arc Ica^F^ouFltrie" es_sentia[. TTicy 
say that all abstraction is falsification, and that as 
soon as you have left out any aspect of something 
actual you have exposed yourself to the risk of 
fallacy in arguing from its remaining aspects alone. 
Those who argue in this way are, in fact, concerned 
with matters quite other than those that concern 
science. ^onvthc^E^lhctic point of virw, for PT>ampl(% 
abstraction is Iikely_toj3e_^olly_j^ 
music may be beautiful, while the gramophone 
record is aesthetically null ; from the point of view of 
imaginative vision, such as an epic poet may desire 
in writing the history of the creation, the abstract 



knowledge offered by physics is not satisfying. He 

wants to know what God saw when He looked upor 

the world and saw that it was good; he cannot be 

satisfied with- formulae giving the abstract logical 

properties of the relations among the differenl 

parts of what God saw. But scientific thought is 

different from this. It is essentially powpvjboagrTJ 

the sort of thought, that is to say, whose purpose. 

conscious or unconscious, is to give power to" its 

possessor. Now power is a causal concept, and to 

obtain power over any given material one need 

only understand the causal laws to which it is subject. 

This is an essentially abstract matter, and the more 

irrelevant details we can omit from our purview, the 

more powerful our thoughts will become. The same 

sort of thing can be illustrated in the economic 

sphere. The cultivator, who knows every corner oi 

his farm, has a concrete knowledge of wheat, and 

makes very little money; the railway which carries 

his wheat views it in a slightly more abstract way, 

and makes rather more money ; the stock exchange 

manipulator, who knows it only in its purely abstract 

aspect of something which may go up or down, is, 

in his way, as remote from concrete reality as the 

physicist, and he, of all those concerned in the 

economic sphere, makes the most money and has 

the most power. So it is with science, though the 

power which the man of science seeks is more remote 

and impersonal than that which is sought on the 

stock exchange. 



ffic extrcrne^ljstractncss of modern physic? 
it difficult to understand, but gives 
understand it ajpasp ^ofthe world as a whole,, a 
sense jiC its structure and mcchanism^Adck--nQ-Iess 

apparat.yg could possiblyjsupplv^ The power 
of usin^ abstractions ,is thf. p.ssf!n.r(fi..jointellect, and. 
with every increase in abstraction the_jiiiLeilcctua 
triumphs of science are enhanced. 


IT is a curious fact that, just when the man in street 
has begun to believe thoroughly in science, the man 
in the laboratory has begun to lose his faith. When 
I was young, most physicists entertained not the 
slightest doubt that the laws of physics give us real 
information about the motions of bodies, and that 
the physical world does really consist of the sort of 
entities that appear in the physicists' equations. 
The philosophers, it is true, threw doubt upon this 
view and have done so ever since the time of Berkeley, 
but since their criticism never attached itself to any 
point in the detailed procedure of science, it could 
be ignored by scientists, and was in fact ignored. 
Nowadays, matters are quite different; the revolu- 
tionary ideas of the philosophy of physics have come 
from the physicists themselves, and are the outcome 
of careful experiments. The ne^ ph^ r>c ^p tl y ^ f 
physics is humble and stammering, where the old 
philosophy was proud and dictatorial. It is, I sup- 
pose, natural that every man should fill the vacuum 
left by the disappearance of belief in physical laws 
as best he may, and that he should use for this 
purpose any odds and ends of unfounded belief 

NOTE. Part of this Chapter is based upon an article called "What 
I Believe," which appeared in The Nation for April 29, 1931. 

which had previously no room to expand. When the 

t helRnaissance it 

astrology and necromancy, and in like manner we 
<-~-^ -- <~> ^^.^ ^^2J ^_^^^> - ^^ - ' >. 

mustexpcct the_aecayjDf the scientific faithjx) lead 
to a recrudescence of pre-scientmc superstitions. 

>o long as we do not inquire too closely what the 
scientist really means, he seems to be presenting us 
with a more and more imposing edifice of know- 
ledge. This is especially the case in astronomy. The 
Milky Way, as everyone knows, consists of all the 
stars in our neighbourhood. Light travels 186,000 
miles in a second; the distance that it travels in a 
year is known as a light year; the distance of the 
nearest star is about four light years; the distance 
of the furthest stars in the Milky Way is about 220 
thousand light years. Telescopes reveal about two 
million systems of stars each analogous to the 
Milky Way, some at distances of over a hundred 
million light years. The universe is thus of a con- 
siderable size, but it is not supposed to be infinite. 
It is supposed that if you travelled long enough in a 
straight line you would ultimately return to your 
starting-point, like a ship going round the world. 
There is, however, some reason to think that the 
universe is continually growing bigger, like a soap- 
bubble while it is being blown. An eminent astrono- 
mer, Arthur Haas, suggests that the universe at some 
not infinitely remote epoch had a radius of 1,200 

million light years, but that its radius is doubled 



every 1,400 million years, that is, within a time 
shorter even than the age of many minerals, not to 
speak of astronomical estimates of the age of the 
sun (Nature, February 7, 1931). This sounds quite 
impressive, but the scientists themselves are by no 
means persuaded that there is any objective reality 
about the large numbers in which they deal. I do 
not mean by this that they think the laws they are 
enunciating untrue; I mean rather that these laws 
are capable of an interpretation which turns the 
abysses of astronomical space into mere auxiliary 
concepts, which are useful in the calculations by 
means of which we connect one real occurrence with 
another. Sometimes it would seem as 

^tK^nnJyjf q|_pr r 1 1 rrr n (^^A/iHh which 

thcy^ace-concerned are the observations oX^-strnnn- 
WljoetfeT' 1 wishes_-tqkrioA^ 

tter han read 
^ ^^^. - . 

of tJfr-PhfswaLM&dd. He will learn there that physics 

*-f ^^ -^^-~-~* V M. 4 

is divided into three departments. The first contains 
all the laws of classical physics, such as the conserva- 
tion of energy and momentum and the law of 
gravitation. All these, according to Professor Edding- 
ton, boil down to nothing but Qoni^nljfijQ^_as to 
measurement ; true, the laws they state are universal, 
but so is the law that there are three feet in a yard, 
which, according to him, is just as informative 
concerning the course of nature. The second depart- 


ment of physics is concerned with large aggregatcs- 
and the laws jpf chance.. Here we do not attempt to 
prove that such and such an event is impossible, but 
only that it is wildly improbable. The third depart- 
ment of physics, which is the most modern, is the 
quantum theory, and this is the most disturbing of 
all, since itfseems to show that perhaps the law of 
causality, in which science has hitherto implicitly 
believed, cannot be applied to the doings of indi- 
vidual electrons. I shall say a few words about each 
of these three matters in turn. 

To begin with classical physics. Newton's law of 
gravitation, as everyone knows, was somewhat 
modified by Einstein, and the modification was 
experimentally confirmed. But if Eddington's view is 
right, this experimental confirmation does not have 
the significance that one would naturally attribute 
to it. After considering three possible views as to 
what the law of gravitation asserts about the motion 
of the earth round the sun, Eddington plumps for 
a fourth, to the effect that "the earth goes anyhow 
it likes" ; that is to say, the law of gravitation tells 
us absolutely nothing about the way the earth moves. 
He admits that this view is paradoxical, but he says : 

"The key to the paradox is that we ourselves, our 
conventions, the kind of thing that attracts our 
interest, are much more concerned than we realize 
in any account we give of how the objects of the 
physical world arc behaving. And so an object which, 
viewed through our frame of conventions, may seem 


to be behaving in a very special and remarkable 
way, viewed according to another set of conventions, 
may be doing nothing to excite particular comment." 

I must confess that I find this view a very difficult 
one ; respect for Eddington prevents me from saying 
that it is untrue, but there are various points in his 
argument which I have difficulty in following. Of 
course, all the practical consecjuenccs which j&c- 
deduce from the abstract theory, as, for example, 
that we shaTl^ perceive daylight at certain times "arid 
not at certain other times, lie outslcTe~tTie^cheme of 
official physics, whichnaevcjMrc^ch^ 
at all. I cannot but suspect, however, that official 
pKysics is just a little bit too official in Eddington's 
hands, and that it will not be impossible to allow it 
a little more significance than it has in his interpreta- 
tion. However that may be, it is an important sign 
of the times that one of the leading exponents of 
scientific theory should advance so modest an opinion. 

I come now to the statistical part of physics, which 
is concerned with the study of large aggregates. 
Large aggregates behave almost exactly as they were 
supposed to do before the quantum theory was in- 
vented, so that in regard to them the older physics is 
very nearly right. There is, however, one supremely 
important law which is only statistical; this is the 
second law of thermodynamics. It states, roughly 
speaking, that the world is growing continuously 
more disorderly. Eddington illustrates it by what 
happens when you shuffle a pack of cards. The pack 



of cards comes from the maker's with the cards 
arranged in their proper order; after you have 
shuffled them, this order is lost, and it is in the 
highest degree improbable that it will ever be 
restored by subsequent shuffling. It is this sort of 
thing that makes the difference between past and 
future. In the _rest_.jof theojcelkiil physics we are 
dealing with processes that are reversible ; that is to 
say, where the laws of physics show that it is possible 
for a material system to pass from state A at one time 
to state B at anoUier, the opposite transition will be 
equally possible according to these same laws. But 
where the second law of thermodynamics comes in, 
this is not the case. Professor Eddington enunciates 
the law as follows : "Whenever anything happens 
that cannot be undone, it is always reducible to the 
introduction of a random element analogous to that 
introduced by shuffling." This law, unlike most of 
the laws of physics, is concerned only with proba- 
bilities. To take our previous illustration : it is of 
course possible that if you shuffle a pack of cards 
long enough, the cards may happen to get into the 
right order by chance. This is very unlikely, but 
it is far less unlikely than the orderly arrangement 
of many millions of molecules by chance. Professor 
Eddington gives the following illustration : suppose 
a vessel divided into two equal parts by a partition, 
and suppose that in one part there is air, while in 
the other there is a vacuum; then a door in the 
partition is opened and the air spreads itself evenly 



through the whole vessel. It might happen by 
chance that at some future time the molecules of 
the air in the course of their random movements 
would all find themselves again in the partition in 
which they originally were. This is not impossible ; 
it is only improbable, but it is very improbable. "If 
I let my fingers wander idly over the keys of a 
typewriter it might happen that my screed made an 
intelligible sentence. If an army of monkeys were 
strumming on typewriters they might write all the 
books in the British Museum. The chance of their 
doing so is decidedly more favourable than the 
chance of the molecules returning to one half of the 

There are an immense number of illustrations of 
the same kind of thing. For example, if you drop one 
drop of ink into a glass of clear water it will gradually 
diffuse itself throughout the glass. It might happen 
by chance that it would afterwards collect itself 
again into a drop, but we should certainly regard it 
as a miracle if this happened. When a hot body and 
a cold body are put in contact, we all know that the 
hot body cools and cold body gets warm until the 
two reach the same temperature, but this also is 
only a law of probability. It might happen that a 
kettle filled with water put on the fire would freeze 
instead of boiling ; this also is not shown to be im- 
possible by any of the laws of physics, it is only shown 
to be highly improbable by the second law of 
thermodynamics. This law states, speaking generally, 



that the universe tends towards democracy, and that 
when it has achieved that state, it will be incapable 
of doing anything more. It seems that the world was 
created at some not infinitely remote date, and was 
then far more full of inequalities than it is now, but 
from the moment of creation it has been continually 
running down, and will ultimately stop for all 
practical purposes unless it is again wound up. 
Professor Eddington for some reason does not like 
the idea that it can be wound up again, but prefers 
to think that the world drama is only to be performed 
once, in spile of the fact that it must end in aeons of 
boredom, in the course of which the whole audience 
will gradually go to sleep. 

Oiiantl"n theory j wkirh jg_ rnnrprnrH wiih iH i- 

virinal ?*^ and rkrtro"^ i>s **M in a gtatc pf rapid 
development, a.nH_is prnfevhly far from its__jinal- 

{ .1. M , . f i . J. * i m !.,-.- - ---"- . - ~" 

form. In the hands of Heisenberg, Schrodingcr and 
Co. it has become more disturbing and more revolu- 
tionary than the theory of relativity ever was. 
Professor Eddington expounds its recent development 
in a manner which conveys more of it to the non- 
mathematical reader than I should have supposed 
possible. It is profoundly disturbing to the prejudices 
which have governed physics since the time of 
Newton. The most painful thing about it from this 
point of view is that, as mentioned above, it throws 
doubt upon the universality of causality; the view 
at present is that perhaps atoms have a certain 
amount of free will, so that their behaviour, even in 



theory, is not wholly subject to law. Moreover, some 
things which we thought definite, at least in theory, 
have quite ceased to be so. There is what is called 
the "principle of indeterminacy" : this states that 
"a particle may have position or it may have velocity, 
but it cannot in any exact sense have both" ; that 
is to say, if you know where you are, you cannot tell 
how fast you are moving, and if you know how fast 
you are moving, you cannot tell where you are. 
This cuts at the root of traditional physics, in which 
position and velocity were fundamental. You can 
only see an electron when it emits light, and it only 
emits light when it jumps, so that to sec where it 
was you have to make it go elsewhere. This is 
interpreted by some writers as a breakdown of 
physical determinism, and is utilized by Edding- 
ton in his concluding chapters to rehabilitate free 

Professor Eddington proceeds to base optimistic 
and pleasant conclusions upon the scientific nescience 
which he has expounded in previous pages. This 
optimism is based upon the time-honoured principle 
that anything which cannot be proved untrue may 
be assumed to be true, a principle whose falsehood 
is proved by the fortunes of bookmakers. If we dis- 
card this principle, it is difficult to see what ground 
for cheerfulness modern physics provides. It tells us 
that the universe is running down, and if Eddington 
is right, it tells us practically nothing else, since all 
the rest is merely rules of the game. 



As Sir Arthur himself has pointed out, in spite of 
evolution, which is introducing increasing organiza- 
tion into one little corner of the universe, there is, 
on the whole, a general loss of organization which 
will finally swallow up the organization due to 
evolution. In the end, he says, the whole universe 
will reach a state of complete disorganization which 
will be the end of the world. At this stage the 
umverse will consist of a uniform mass at a uniform 
temperature. Nothing further will haj>pen jixcept 
that the universe will graduallyswell. It speaks 
welTTor Sir ^Arthur's temperamental cheerfulness 
that he should find in this view a basis for 

From a pragmatic_j>r political point.. .of view 
probably the most important thing about such a 
theory of physics is that it will destroy, if it becorrTeT 
widespread, that faith in science which has been the 
only constructive creed of modern times, and the 
source of practically all change both for good and 
for evil. The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries 
had a philosophy of natural law based upon Newton. 
The law was supposed to imply a Lawgiver, though 
as time went on this inference was less emphasized, 
but in any case the universe was orderly and predict- 
able. By learning nature's laws we could hope to 
manipulate nature, and thus science became the 
sojirce of power. This is still the outlook of most 
energetic prac^cjj__nien A _Jbut,,iL Js ._BQ _ longer -the. 

outlook of some among the men of science. The 

o 97 


world, according to them, is a more higgledy- 
piggledy and haphazard affair than it was thought 
to be. And they know much less about it than was 
thought to be known by their predecessors in the 
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Perhaps the 
scientific scepticism of which Eddington is an 
exponent may ~IeacT in ["the" eri^tothe collapse of die 
gciehtihc~era, Just as tlie theological scepticism^FtHe 
Renaissance has led gradually to the collapse of 
the theological era. I supposcthat_ machin 
suryjwe the^collapse of science^ just as parspnsjiay^ 

has science- to 
contribute to metaphysics? Academic philosophers, 
eveT~smce" the time of Tar 

that tEe^worlcT is a unity. This_viewjias been taken 
over from them by clergymen and journalists, and 
its acceptance hasUecn considered the-touchsfnne of 

- - - -- 4 . , ^ ^ . , _. , _. _, .^ ___ ,_ _ ^ __ ^ ____ --- ' ~ 

. The most fundamental of my intellectual 
beliefs is that this Jsxiibbisli. I think the universe is all 
spoj^^ndjyinps, without unity, without continuity, 
without coherence of orderliness or any of the other 
properties that governesses love. Indeed, there is 
little but prejudice^jmjLhabitJp15e said for the View 
that there is a world at all. Physicists have recently 
advanced opinions which should have led them to 
agree with the foregoing remarks ; but they have been 
so pained by the conclusions to which logic would 


have led them that they have been abandoning 
logic for theology in shoals^ Every day some new 
physicist publishes a new pious volume to conceal 
from himself and others the fact that in his scientific 
capacity he has plunged the world into unreason and 
unreality. To take an illustration : What are we to 
think of the sun? He used to be the glorious lamp-of 
Heaven, a golden-haired god, a beinjjtoj^:wai> 
shipped Jby^Zoroastrians and Aztecs and Incas. 
There is some reason to think that the doctrines of 

Zoroasterlnspired Kepler's heliocentric cosmogony^ 
But now the sun is noltiTng'rjur waves of probability. 
If you ask what it is that is probable, or in what, 
oceaiTtHe waves travel, the physicist, Jike the Mad 
Hatter, replies : "^havc had enough of thjsj. suppose 
we change the subject." If, however, you press liim A 
he' 'wiIT say~TrTaTTri"e waves are in his formulae, and 
his formulae arejn^his^l^^^rpm^whiclij however, 
you must not infer thaj:_ the waves are in his heacl. 
To speak seriously : such orderliness as we appear to 
find- in the external woddjsjield-by many to.J}ejdue 
to aur_own passion_for pigeonrhoies, and they, 
maintain_thatjt is^uoitc doubtful wiietheiLthcjce. are 
such things as laws of nature. It_is a curious sign of 
the times that religious apologists welcome this view. 
In the ^eigriteentrrc^entury they welcc)meaf the._reign 
of law, slrice"they thought that laws implied a j^aw^ 
giver, but religious apologisTFin thc~prcsent day seem 
to be of opinion that_a.JVQrld created by a Deity, 
must be irrational, .on the ground, apparently, that 



they themselves have been made in God's image. 1 
The~Teconciliation ~oT religion and science which 
professors proclaim and Bishops acclaim rests, in 
fact, though subconsciously, on grounds of quite 
another sort, and might be set forth in the following 
practical syllogism :fscience depends upon endbw- 
ments^and endowments are threatened by Bolshcy^ 
* J jthcjgj^rejcjencc is threatened by Bolshevism: 
^religion is also threatened by^ BolshevismJ 

icrcfore religion and science are allied It follows^ 
>of jxnirse, that science, if pursued with sufficient 
profundity, reveals Ihc existence of a God. Nothing 
so logical as this penetrates, however, to the conscious- 
ness of the pious professors. r \ 

The odd thing is that, at the very moment when 
physics, Vhich is the fundamental science, is under- 
mining the whole structure of applied reason anc] 
'presenting us with a world of unreal and fantastk 
dreams in place of the Newtonian order and solidity, 
applied science is becoming peculiarly useful and 
more able than ever to glyc~rcsults~oi vaTuc~to 
human life. There is here a paradox/~of which 
possibly the intellectual solution may be found 
hereafter, or, equally possibly, no solution may 
exist. The fact is that science 

1 This modern point of view is by no means universal, even among 
physicists. Millikan, for example, speaking of Galileo's work, says : 
"Through it mankind began to know a God not of caprice and 
whim, such as were all the gods of the ancient world, bu a God who 
works through law." (Science and Religion, 1929, p. 39.) Most modern 
physicists, however, show a preference for caprice and whim. 
I uo 


^rojes: onjthepne hand as a mctaphysic, and on the 
^thlT hn^ -ay educated commoiTscnse. As a met'a- 
physic it has been undermined by its own success. 
Mathematical technique is now so powerful that it 
can find a formula for even the most erratic world. 
Plato and Sir James Je^ns think 

Godjriust have made 

the world on a geometrical pattern, but the mathe- 
matical logician suspects that God could not have 
made a world containing many things without 
exposing it to the skill of the geometer. In fact, the 
applicability of geometry to the physical world has 
ceased to be a fact about that world, and has^becjorne 
onlyjajributc'to thcjycometcr'sjc7cverne_ss. The only 
thing that the geometer needs is multiplicity, 
whereas the only thing the theologian needs is 
unity. Ut unity, however vague, however tenuous, 
Ts<ee"no evidence in modern science considered as a 
metaphysic. But modern science considered as 
common sense remains triumphant^ indeed, more 
triumphant than ever before" 

In view of this state oi aiiairs, it is necessary to 
make a sharp distinction between metaphysical 
beliefs and practical beliefs in regard to the concluct 
ol lite, (m metaphysics my creed is short and simple. 
I think uiat the ^Eternal world may be ah iftnsl5n 
but iriTexists, it jconsists of events, short, small and 
haphazard. Or_Hej t _npitY 1 and continuity are humaji 
as truly as arc catalogues and cncyclo;. 

paedias.~But^human inventions can, within limits, 

- - JQJ 


be made to prevail in our human world, and in the 
conduct of our daily life we may with advantage 
forget the realm of chaos and old night by which we 
are perhaps surrounded. 

The ultimate metaphysical doubts which we have 
been considering have no bearing whatever upon 
theTpractical uses of science. If a Mendelian develops 
a variety of wheat which i immune from diseases 
that are destructive to the older varieties; if a 
physiologist makes a discovery about vitamins; 
if a chemist makes a discovery about the synthetic 
production of nitrates, the importance and usefulness 
of their work is quite independent of the question 
whether an atom consists of a miniature solar 
system, or a wave of probability, or an infinite 
rectangle of integers. When I speak of the importance 
of scientific method in regarcLto the rnnHnrt nf 
Human life, I am thinking gf $r\t>nifir m^thr^ in-j f< f 
mundane forms. Not that I would undervalue 
science as ITmetaphysic, but the value of science as 
metaphysic belongs in another sphere/ Jt belongs 
with religion and art and love^_withj:hc pursuit of 
the_beatiricvision T withthe Promethean madness 
that leads the greatest men t strive to 

'erhas theonultimatevaju^^ 

rornethean madness. But it is 



uticalTor even moral. 

It Js this Quasi religious aspectoi 


science which appears to be succumbing to the 
assaults j)f scepticism. Until quite recently 

1 02 


science have felt th prn ^ vp<! *h** higb-prirsti'LQL a 
melyj the_cult^d[J;ruth ; not truth as the 

religious sects understand ik i.e. as ijjhc _ battleground 
of a collection of dogmatists, but truth as a quest, a 
vision faintly^appcaring and again vanishing, a 
hoped-for sun to meet the Heraclitean fire in the 
soul. It is because science was so conceived, that men 
of science were willing to suffer privations and 
persecutions, and to be execrated as enemies of 
established creeds. All this is fading into the past; 
the modern man of science if of a timid disposition 
knows that he is respected, and feels that he does 
not deserve respect. He approaches the established 
order apologetically. "My predecessors," he says 
in effect, "may hayf, s.ppH 

because they were arrogant, and imagined that 

1 am more humble, 

and do not claim to know anything that can con- 
tfTIVcrt your dogmas." In return, the established 

order showers knighthoods and fortunes_upon such 
men of science, who become more and more dcter- 
mincd_supporters of the injustice and obscurantism 
iipon which our social system is based. In the newer 
sciences, such as psychology, this has not yet hap-_ 
pcncd; there the old ^ardour still persists, and 
the old persecutions cojltinue. Homer Lane, for 
example, who w^g a| r>n^ a <p^g^ ^^r} a sair^ was 
deported by the British PolW ^ an "nnHpgirablp 
alien." But these newer sciences have not yet been 

touched bv^ the cold breath of scepticism. 



The trouble is an intellectual one; indeed, its 
solution, if there is one, is to be sought in logic. 
For my part, I have no solution to offer ; our age is 
one which increasingly substitutes power for the 
older ideals, and this is happening in science as else- 
where. Whi|e 

triumphant r science as the pursuit of 

truth is being killed by a scepticism which the skill 
orHic^mcn of science has generated, That this is a 
misfortune is undeniable, but I cannot admit that 
the substitution of superstition for scepticism advo- 
cated by many of our leading men of science would 
be an improvement. Sc^pjtidsm^ m ?#_ De painful, 
and may be barren, but at least it is honest and an 
Outcome Of the quest" for truth. Perhaps it is a 
temporary phase, but no real escape is possible by 
returning to the discarded beliefs of a stupider age. 



IN recent times, the bulk of eminent physicists and 
a number of eminent Biologists have made pro- 
nouncements stating that recent advances in science 
have disproved the older materialism, and have 
tended to re-establish the truths of religion. The 
statements of the scientists have as a rule been 
somewhat tentative and indefinite, but the theolo- 
gians have seized upon them and extended them, 
while the newspapers in turn have reported the 
more sensational accounts of the theologians, so that 
the general J>n hi ir. |ias derjvp^ thejrnpres<;inn thaf 
physics confirms practically the whole of the Book 
of Genesis. I do not myself think that the moral to 
be drawn from modern science is at all what the 
general public has thus been led to suppose. In the 
first place, the men of science have not said nearly 
as much as they are thought to have said, and in the 
second place what they have said in the way of 
support for traditional religious beliefs has been said 
by them not in their cautious, scientific capacity, 
but rather in their capacity of good citizens, 
anxious to defend virtue and property. The first 
world war and the Russian Revolution made all 
timid men conservative, and professors are usually 

temperamentally timid. Such considerations, how- 



ever, are beside the point. Let us examine what 
science really has to say. 

(i) Free Will. Until very recent times theology, 
while in its Catholic form it admitted free will in 
human beings, showed an affection for natural law 
in the universe, tempered only by belief in occasional 
miracles. In the eighteenth century, under the 
influence of Newton, the alliance between theology 
and natural law become very close. It was held that 
God had created the world in accordance with a 
Plan, and that natural laws were the embodiment of 
this Plan. Until the nineteenth century theology 
remained hard and intellectual and definite. In 
order to meet the assaults of atheistic reason, how- 
ever, it has, during the last hundred years, aimed 
more and more at appealing to sentiment. It has 
tried to catch men in their intellectually relaxed 
moods; and from having been a strait-jacket it has 
become a dressing-gown. In our day, only the 
fundamentalists and a few of the more learned 
Catholic theologians maintain the old respectable 
intellectual tradition. All th/* ^th^r religious apolo- 
gists are engaged in blunting the edge of logic, 
appealing to the heart instcacTof the hcao^ mairi^ 
taining that our feelings can demonstrate the falsity 
of a conclusion to whjr.h onr reason has been driven. 
As Lord Tennyson nobly says : 

And like a man in wrath the heart 
Stood up and answered "I have felt." 

In our day the heart has feelings about atoms, about 
1 06 


the respiratory system, about the growth of sea- 
urchins and other such topics, concerning which, 
but for science, it would remain indifferent. 

One of the most remarkable developments in 
religious apologetics in recent times is the attempt 
to rescue free will in man by means of ignorance as 
to the behaviour of atoms. The older laws of mechan- 
ics which governed the movements of bodies large 
enough to be seen remain true to a very close 
approximation as regards such bodies, but are found 
to be not applicable to single atoms, still less to single 
electrons and protons. It is not yet known with any 
certainty wh pt her therfi arf Jaws gf>vfming the 
behaviour of jangle atoms jn all respects, or whether 
the behaviour of such atoms is in part random. It is 
thought possible that the laws governing the 
behaviour of large bodies may be merely statistical 
laws, expressing the average result of a large number 
of random motions. Some, such as the second law 
of thermodynamics, are known to be statistical 
laws, and it is possible that others may be. In the 
atom there are various possible states which do not 
merge continuously into each other, but are separated 
by small finite gaps. An atom may hop from one of 
these states to another, and there are various 
different hops that it may make. At present no laws 
are known to decide which of the possible hops 
place on ?ny given occasion,, and it is 
atmri T ' s nnt subject to laws at all 

in this respect, but has what might be called, by 



analogy, "free will." Eddington, in his book on the 
Nature of the Physical World, has made great play with 
this possibility (p. 311 ff.). He thinks, apparently, 
that the mind can decide the atoms in the brain to 
make one or another of the possible transitions at a 
given moment, and thus, by means of some kind of 
trigger action, produce large-scale results in accord- 
ance with its volition. The volition itself, he thinks, 
is uncaused. If he is rightTthe course of the physical 
world, even where fairly large masses are concerned^ 
is not completely predetermined by physical laws. 
but is Har5Ic"to be altered by the uncaused volitions 
of human beings^ 

Before examining this position I should like to 
say a few words about what is called "the Principle 
of Indeterminacy." This principle was introduced 
into physics in 1927 by Heiscnberg, and has been 
seized on by clergymen chiefly, I think, on account 
of its name as something capable of giving them an 
escape from thraldom to mathematical laws. It is, 
to my mind, somewhat surprising that Eddington 
should countenance this use of the principle (see 
page 306). The Principle of Indeterminacy states^ 
that it is impossible to determine with precision 
Hotrithe^position and the momentum of a particle ; 
*thcrc will be a margin of error in each, ajicLJJie 
product of the two errors is constant^ Thai i *o 
the more accurately WP Hpterminf th" 

accurately we shall hp_Hp^rmining ^hpjrth^ ancL 

vice versa. The margin of error involved is, of course, 


very small. I am surprised, I repeat, that Eddington 
should have appealed to this principle in connection 
with the question of free will, for the principle does 
nothing whatever to show that the course of nature 
is not determined. It shows merely that the old 
space-time apparatus isnot quite adequate to the. 
needs of modern physics^ which, in any case, is 
Itnown on other grppnrrJT Space and time were 
invented by the Greeks, and served their purpose 
admirably until the present century. Einstein 
replaced them by a kind of centaur which he called 
"space-time," and this did well enough for a couple 
of decades, but modern quantum mechanics has 
made it evident that a mo* farH^ mental r?^n- 
struction is necessary . The Principle of Indeterminacy 
is merely an illustration of this necessity, not of the 
failure oTphysical laws to determine the course of 

As J. E. Turner has pointed out (Nature, Decem- 
ber 27, 1930), "Tfce use to which the Principle of 
Indeterminacy has been put is largely due to an 
ambiguity in the word 'detcrmincoV " In one sense 
a quantity is determined when it is measured, in 
the other sense an event is determined when it is 

caused. The Principle of Indeterminacy JM^to do 
witb_mcasurement, not with causation. The velocity 
and position of .a particle arc declared by the 

_ * _ r , ^^^^"^''^^'^^^T* -. ... _j 

l rmciplc to be undetermined in the sense that they 
cannot be accurately measured. This is a physical 

fact causally connected with the fact that the measur- 

- - ~ " 109 


ing is a physical process which has a physical effect 
upon what is measured. There is nothing whatever 
in the Principle of Indeterminacy to show that any 
physical event is uncaused. As Turner says : "Every 
argument that, since some change cannot be 
'determined' in the sense of 'ascertained/ it is 
therefore not 'determined' in the absolutely different 
sense of 'caused,' is a fallacy of equivocation." 

Returning now to the atom and its supposed 
free will, it should be observed that it is not known 
that the behaviour of the atom is capricious. It is 
false to say the behaviour of the atom is known to 
be capricious, and it is also false to say the behaviour 
is known to be not capricious. Science has quite 
recently discovered that the atom is not subject to 
the laws of the older physics, and some physicists 
have somewhat rashly jumped to the conclusion that 
the atom is not subject to laws at all. Eddington's 
argument about the effect of the mind on the brain 
inevitably reminds one of Descartes's argument on 
the same subject. Descartes knew of the conservation 
of vis viva, but not of the conservation of momentum. 
HcTlhereffife' thought that the mind could alCerTFe 
direction of the motion of the animal spirits, though 
noTlts amount. When, shortly after the publication^ 
of his theory, the conservation of momentum was 
discovered, Descartes's view had to be abandoned 
Eckiuigton's view, similarly, is at the mercy of the 
experimental physicists, who may at any momenT 

of individual 



atoms. f it is very rash to erect a theological super- 
structure uj)on^.jIecjoOgngranc^jvhich may be 
only momcntar\J And the effects of this procedure, 
so far as it has any, are necessarily bad, since they 
make men hope that new discoveries will not be 
made. </ 

There is, moreover, a purely empirical objection 
to trie bclieJri free will. Wherever it has been 
possible to subject the behaviour of animals or of 
human beings to careful scientific observation, it 
has been found, as in Pavlov's experiments, that 
scientific laws are just as discoverable as in any other 
sphere. It is true that we cannot predict human 
actions with any completeness, but this is quite 
sufficiently accounted for by the complication of the 
mechanism, and by no means demands the hypo- 
thesis of complete lawlessness, which is found to be 
false wherever it can be carefully tested. 

.who desire caprice in the physical world 
seem to me to have failed to realize what tnis would 
involve. All inference in regard to thccoursc of 
is c^u&ftliiul iT uaiure is "not^siihjert to 

causal, laws all such infereli^m^stlalllWe. cannot, 
in that case, know anything outside of our personal 
experience; indeed, strictly speaking, we can nly 
know our experience in the present moment, since, 
all memory depends upon causal laws*. If we. c< 

existence --e-<rtrreT~people, ' orVven of our 
ow each how much leua can \vt infer God. 

gians desire. The 


principle of causality may be true or may be false, 
but the person who finds the hypothesis of its falsity 
cheering is failing to realize the implications of his 
own theory. He usually retains unchallenged all 
those causal laws which he finds convenient, as, for 
example, that his food will nourish him and that 
his bank will honour his cheques so long as his 
account is in funds, while rejecting all those that he 
finds inconvenient. This, however, is altogether too 
naive a procedure. 

There is, in fact, no good reason whatever for 
a upposing that the behaviour of atoms is not subject 
to law. It is only quite recently that experimental 
methods have been able to throw any light on__thfi 
behaviour of individual atoms, and it is no wonder 
f this behaviour have not yet been 

discj2y_cjxd. To prove that a given set of phenomena 
is not subject to laws is essentially and theoretically 
impossible. All that can be affirmed is that the laws, 
if any, have not yet been discovered. We may say, 
if we choose, that the men who have been investigat- 
ing the atom are so clever that they must have 
discovered the laws if there were any. I do not think, 
however, that this is a sufficiently solid premise 
upon which to base a theory of the universe.'./ 

(2) God as Mathematician.-^^ Arthur Eddingtoq, 
deduces religion from the facl that atoms do not 
obey the laws of mathematics/ /Sir James Jeans 

in TO ' ' ' ^^- ^\ej> ^^^i "9 y "" ^uj- ____ j- '"y ^^- * ' ''' i 

deduces it from the fact that they cloy Both . Jthfise 
arguments have been accepted with equal enthusiasm 

by the theolo^ians r who hold, apparently, that the 

^ ** ^ ""i r^iirn -L^_ ^___^n>'Si~"'* B ^ > ^* B ^^ ^"***<*i 

temand for consistency belongs to the cold reason 
aarf n muSt not interfere with our deeper religioug 

We have examined Eddington's argument from 
the way that atoms jump. Let us now examine 
Jeans's argument from the way that stars cool. 
Jeans's God is Platonic. He is not, we are told, a 

1^?^****^^^__ "* 

biologist or an engineer, but a pure mathematician 
(The Mysterious Universe, p. 134). I confess to a 
preference for this type of God rather than the one 
that is conceived after the analogy of big business ; 
but that, no doubt, is because I prefer thinking to 
doing. This suggests a treatise dealing with the 
influence of muscular tone upon theology. The man 
whose muscles are taut believes in a God of action, 
wTufe the man whose muscles are relaxed believes 
in a God of thought and contemplation. Sir Jaffics 
Jeans, confident no doubt in his own theistic argu- 
ments, is not very complimentary to those of the 
evolutionists. His book on the Mysterious Universe 
begins with a biography of the sun, one might 
almost say an epitaph. It seems that npt mrm than 
one star in abou* or** *" in d r fd thousand has planets. 
but that sojcne two thQusand^nillion years ago the 
sun liadthc good fortune to have a fruitful meeting 
wTth another star, which led to the existing planetary 
offspring. The stars that do not have planets cannot 
give rise to life, so that life must be a very rare 
phenomenon in the universe. "It seems incredible,*' 



says Sir James Jeans, "that the universe can have 
been designed primarily to produce life like our own : 
had it been so, surely we might have expected to find 
a better proportion between the magnitude of the 
mechanism and the amount of the product." And 
even in this rare corner of the universe the possibility 
of life exists only during an interlude between 
weather that is too hot and weather that is too cold. 
"It is a tragedy of our race that it is probably 
destined to die of cold, while the greater part of the 
substance of the universe still remains too hot for 
life to obtain a footing." Theologians whojargue as 
if human life were the purpose of creation seem tdlijc 
as faulty in their astronomy as they arc excessive in 
their estimation of themselves and their fellow- 
creaturcs. 1 shall not attempt to summarize Jeans r s 
admirable chapters on Modern physics, matter and 
radiation, and relativity and the ether; they are 
already as brief as possible, and no summary can 
do them justice. I will, however, quote Professor 
Jeans's own summary in order to whet the reader's 

"To sum up, a^qap-bubble with irregularities 
and corrugations on its surface-is. per hi aps . the, hesl 
representation,. . jn terms Q 

materials, of the new _ universe .jreveaiedLto us by the 
tiicory of relativity. The universe is not the interior 
3f__the soap-bubble but its surface, and we must 

tW whilff thf* s^face of the 

>oap-bubble has only two dimensions^ the univcrsc- 

174 ' "~ 


has fr>]]r three dimensions of space and one 
of time. And the substance ouTof which thi&4>wbbl 
is blown 4 the soap-film^is emgty^space welded on to 
empty time." 

last rb^^ r "f *" ho^ i mnrprnpH to 

that this SOap-bubMfi hag hf<*n hlnwn hy a 

matical Deitv because of His interes^injtsjtnathe- 

- m < i in -<"' ' x^""* 1 *^ 

matical properties. This part has pleased the 
theologians. Theologians have grown grateful for 

*-* ' - --*uj? i -~ ~- _^ _ Jut --- _ - 1 --- S*!_^-., - . . ..,.....,!.-. 

small mcrcies r and they do not much care what sort 
oTGod the man of science gives them so 

rives them 

irJ[arnes Jeans's 

passion for doing sums, but 

*"*""*?* pi 1 * ^^thcmatJGian, is quite indifferent as 
to what the sums are about. By prefacing his argu- 
ment by a lot of difficult and recent physics, the 
eminent author manages to give it an air of pro- 
fundity which it would not otherwise possess. In 
essence the argument is as follows : since two apples 
and two apples together make four apples, it follows 
that the Creator must have known that two and two 
are four. It might be objected that, since one man 
and one woman together sometimes make three, 
the Creator was not yet quite as well versed in sums 
as one could wish. To speak seriously: Sir James 
Jeans reverts explicitly to the theory of Bish< 



we observe in th 

nn thinking ahn^t things^ for niiitf. a. 


long time. Material objects, for example, do not 
cease to exisTwhcn no human being is looking at 
them, because God is looking at them all the time, 
or rather because they arc thoughts in His mind at 
alj_jimes. The universe, he says, "can best be 
pictured, although still very imperfectly and inade- 
quately, as consisting of pure thought, the thought 
'oTwhat, for want of a wider word, we must describe 
as a mathematical thinker." A little later we are 

*a ' J^^ *^ |p """ ' ' ' .11. 

told thatjthe laws governing God's thoughts arc 
those which govcrn^Kcphenome 

hours, but not apparp^tly of nr 

The argument is, of course, not set out with the 
formal precision which Sir James would demand in 
a subject not involving his emotions. Apart from all 
detail, he has been guilty of a fundamental fallacy 
in confusing the realms of pure and applied mathe- 
matics. Pure mathematics at no point depends upon 
observation ; i{ js concerned with symbols, and with 
proving that_jjjflTe.rf;nt rpllf;c,tiops of symbols have 
the samf^jr^eaning. It is because of this symbolic 

character that it can be studied without the help of 
experiment. Physics, on the contrary, however 
mathematical it may become, depends throughout 
on observation and experiment, that is to say, 
ultimately upon sense perception. Th* 

cian provides all kinds of mathematics, but only some 

the physicist. And 
wathephysicist asserts when he uses mathematics 

is something totally different from what the pure 


mathematician asserts. The physicist assciw that 
the mathematical symbols which he is employing 
can be used for the interpretation, colligation, and 
prediction of sense impressions. However abstract 
his work may become, it never loses its relation to 
experience. It is found that mathematical formulae 
can express certain laws governing the world that 
we observe. Jeans argufis that *h world rpiist have 
been created by a mathgrpatirian for the pleasure 

in opfratio" If he had ever 

attempted to set out this argument formally, I 
cannot doubt that he would have seen how fallacious 
it is. To begin with, it seems probable that any 
world, no matter what, could be brought by a 
mathematician of sufficient skill within the scope of 
general laws. If this be so, the mathematical character 
of modern physics is not a fact about the world, but 
merely a tribute to the skill of the physicist. In the 
second pla^ Jf Cnd wprp ni pwf a purr mathr 
matician as Jeans supposes. He would havr nr> 
wish to fn'ye a gross external eykfpnrp fn Hie 
thoughts. The desire to trace curves a.nH rrpj^ 
gcometricalmodels belongs to the schoolbov__slagc. 
and would be considered infra dig by a professor. 
Nevertheless it is this desire that Sir James Jeans 
imputes to his Maker. The world, he tells us, consists 
of thoughts ; of these there are, it would seem, three 
grades: the thoughts f God^ the thoughts of men 
whpr^ they arc a. wake, and the thoughts of mm 

when they are aslcep^flnil hnvr hnd^ One 



does not quite see what the two latter kinds of 
thought add to the perfection of the universe, since 
clearly God's thoughts are the best, and one does 
not quite see what can have been gained by creating 
so much muddle-headedness. I once 


commend this puzzle to the attention of 
Sir James Jeans, and I hope that he will comfort 
the theologians by dealing with it at no distant date. 

(3) God as Creator. One of the most serious 
difficulties confronting science at the present time 
is the difficulty derived from the fact that the 
universe appears to be running down. There are, for 
example, radio-active elements in the world. These 
are perpetually disintegrating into less complex 
elements, and no process by which they can be built 
up is known. This, however, is not the most important 
or difficult respect in which the world is running 
down. Although we do not know of any natural 
process by which complex elements are built up 
out of simpler ones, we can imagine such processes, 
and it is possible that they are taking place some- 
where. But when we come to the second law of 
thermodynamics we encounter a more fundamental 

The second law of thermodynamics states, roughly 
speaking, that things left to themselves tend to get 

into a muddle and do not tidy themselves up again. 


It seems that once upon a time the universe was all 
tidy, witn evcrytninff in its prnppr pi are, and that 
eyei^smr.e tfrcn,i,t ha^ been growing more and more 
usordcrly 7 until nothing but a drastic spring- 
cleaning can restore it to its pristine order. In its 
original form the second law of thermodynamics 
asserted something much less general : namely, that 
when there was a difference of temperature between 
two neighbouring bodies, the hotter one would cool 
and the colder one would get warmer until they 
reached an equal temperature. In this form the law 
states a fact familiar to everyone : if you hold up a 
red-hot poker, it will get cool while the surrounding 
air gets warm. But the law was soon seen to have a 
much more general meaning. The particles of very 
hot bodics_arc in very rapid motion, wm'liTthosc of 
rplH bogles move more slowly. In the long run, when 
a number of swiftly moving particles and a number 
of slowly moving particles find themselves in the 
same region, the swift ones will bump into the slow 
ones until both sets acquire on the average equal 
velocities. A similar truth applies to all forms of 
energy. Whenever there is a great deal of energy in 
one region and very little in a neighbouring region, 
energy tends to travel from the one region to the 
other, until equality is established. This whole 
process may be described as a tendency towards 
democracy. It will be seen that this is an irreversible 
process, and that in the past energy must have been 
more unevenly distributed than it is now. In view 



of the fact that the material universe is now con- 
sidered to be finite, and to consist of some definite 
though unknown number of electrons and protons, 
there is a theoretical limit to the possible heaping-up 
of energy in some places as opposed to others. As 
we trace the course of the world backwards in time, 
we arrive after some finite number of years (rather 
more than four thousand and four, however), at 
a state of the world which could not have been 
preceded by any other, if the second law of thermo- 
dynamics was then valid. This initial state of the 
world would be that in which energy was distributed 
as unevenly as possible. As Eddington says: 1 

The difficulty of an infinite past is appalling. It is inconceivable 
that we are the heirs of an infinite time of preparation ; it is 
not less inconceivable that there was once a moment with no 
moment preceding it. 

This dilemma of the beginning of time would worry us more 
were it not shut out by another overwhelming difficulty lying 
between us and the infinite past. We have been studying the 
running-down of the universe; if our views are right, some- 
where between the beginning of time and the present day we 
must place the winding up of the universe. 

Travelling backwards into the past we find a world with 
more and more organization. If there is no barrier to stop us 
earlier we must reach a moment when the energy of the world 
was wholly organized with none of the random element in it. 
It is impossible to go back any further under the present 
system of natural law. I do not think the phrase "wholly 
organized 5 ' begs the question. The organization we are con- 
cerned with is exactly definable, and there is a limit at which 
it becomes perfect. There is not an infinite series of states of 

1 Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World, 1928, p. 83 ff. 


higher and still higher organization ; nor, I think, is the limit 
one which is ultimately approached more and more slowly. 
Complete organization docs not tend to be more immune 
from loss than incomplete organization. 

There is no doubt that the scheme of physics as it has stood 
for the last three-quarters of a century postulates a date at 
which either the entities of the universe were created in a state 
of high organization, or pre-existing entities were endowed with 
that organization which they have been squandering ever since. 
Moreover, this organization is admittedly the antithesis of 
chance. It is something which could not occur fortuitously. 

This has long been used as an argument against a too 
aggressive materialism. It has been quoted as scientific proof 
of the intervention of the Creator at a time not infinitely 
remote from to-day. But I am not advocating that we draw 
any hasty conclusions from it. Scientists and theologians alike 
must regard as somewhat crude the naive theological doctrine 
which (suitably disguised) is at present to be found in every 
textbook of thermodynamics, namely, that some billions of 
years ago God wound up the material universe and has left 
it to chance ever since. This should be regarded as the working- 
hypothesis of thermodynamics rather than its declaration of 
faith. It is one of those conclusions from which we can see no 
logical escape only it suffers from the drawback that it is 
incredible. As a scientist I simply do not believe that the 
present order of things started off with a bang; unscientifically 
I feel equally unwilling to accept the implied discontinuity in 
the Divine nature. But I can make no suggestion to evade the 

It will be seen that Edd^ngton^ in this passage^ 
does not infer a definite act of creation by a Creator. 
HISTonly reason for not doing so is that he does not 
like the idea. The scientific argument leading to the 
conclusion which he rejects is much stronger than 
the argument in favour of free will, since that is 
based upon ignorance, whereas the one we are now 



considering is based upon knowledge. This illus- 
trates the fact that the theological conclusions drawn 
by scientists from their science are only such as 
please them, and not such as their appetite for 
orthodoxy is insufficient to swallow, although the 
argument would warrant them. We must, I think, 
admit that there is far more to be said for the view 
that the universe had a beginning in time at some 
not infinitely remote period, than there is for any 
of the other theological conclusions which scientists 
have recently been urging us to admit. The argument 
does not have demonstrative certainty. The second 
law of thermodynamics may not hold in all times 
and places, or we may be mistaken in thinking the 
universe spatially finite ; but as arguments of this 
nature go, it is a good one, and I think we ought 
provisionally to accept the hypothesis that the world 
had a beginning at some definite, though unknown, 

Are we to infer from this that the world was made 
by a Creator? Certainly not, if we are to adhere to 
the canons of valid scientific inference. There is no 
reason whatever why the universe should noTTiavc^ 
beginTspontaneously, except that it seems odd that 
it should do so ; but there~~is ncflaw of nature to me 
enect that things which seem odd to us must not 
happen. To infer a Creator is to-mfcr a ransf% anil 
causal inferences are only admissible in science 
whcrT they proceed^Jrom observed causal laws. 
Creation out of nothing is an occurrence which has 



not been observed. There is, therefore, no better 
reason to suppose that the world was caused by a 
Creator than to suppose that it was uncaused ; either 
equally contradicts the causal laws that we can 

Nor is there, so far as I can see, any particular 
comfort to be derived from the hypothesis that the 
world was made by a Creator. Whether it was, or 
whether it was not, it is what it is. If somebody tried 
to sell you a bottle of very nasty wine, you would not 
like it any better for being told that it had been 
made in a laboratory and not from the juice of the 
grape. In like manner, I see no comfort to be 
derived from the supposition that this very unpleasing 
universe was manufactured of set purpose. 

Some people among whom, however, Eddington 
is not included derive comfort from the thought 
that if God made the world, He may wind it up 
again when it has completely run down. For my 
part, I do not see how an unpleasant process can 
be made less so by the reflection that it is to be 
indefinitely repeated. No doubt, however, that is 
because I am lacking in religious feeling. 

The purely intellectual argument on this point 
may be put in a nutshell : is the Creator ammabte 
if) the lawsof physics or is ffe not? If He is not, He 
cannot beTnfcrredfrom physical phenomena, since 
no physical causal law can lead to Him; if He is, 
we shall have to apply the second law of thermo- 
dynamics to Him and suppose that He also had to 



be created at some remote period. But in that case 
He has lost His raison d'etre. It is curious that not only 
the physicists, but even the theologians, seem to find 
something new in the arguments from modern 
physics. Physicists, perhaps, can scarcely be expected 
to know the history of theology, but the theologians 
ought to be aware that the modern arguments have 
all had their counterparts at earlier times. Edding- 
ton's argument about free will and the brain is, as 
we saw, closely parallel to Descartes J s. Jeans's argu- 
ment is a compound of Plato and Berkeley, and has 
no more warrant in physics than it had at the time 
of either of these philosophers. The argument that 
the world must have had a beginning in time is set 
forth with great clearness by Kant, who, however, 
supplements it by an equally powerful argument to 
prove that the world had no beginning in time. Our 
age has been rendered conceited by the multitude 
of new discoveries and inventions, but in the realm 
of philosophy it is much less in advance of the past 
than it imagines itself to be. 

We hear a great deal nowadays about the old- 
fashioned materialism, and its refutation by modern 
physics. As a matter of fact, there has been a change 
in the technique of physics. In old days, whatever 
philosophers might say, physics proceeded techni- 
cally on the assumption that matter consisted of hard 
little lumps. Now it no longer does so. But few 
philosophers ever believed in the hard little lumps at 
any date later than that of Democritus. Berkeley and 



Hume certainly did not; no more did Leibniz, 
Kant and Hegel. Mach, himself a physicist, taught 
a completely different doctrine, and every scientist 
with even a tincture of philosophy was ready to 
admit that the hard little lumps were no more than 
a technical device. In that sense materialism is dead, 
but in another and more important sense it is more 
alive than it ever was. The important question is not 
whether matter consists of hard little lumps or of 
something else, but whether the course of nature is 
determined by the laws of physics. The progress of 
biology, physiology, and psychology has made it 
more probable than it ever was before that all natural 
phenomena are governed by the laws of physics ; and 
this is the really important point. To prove this 
point, however, we must consider some of the dicta 
of those who deal with the sciences of life. 
(4) Evolutionary Theology. 


, and is still 

^b.i i .^^ 


in evolution 
unfolding^ through 

tjie ageSx^Some place this Plan in the mind of a 
Creator, while others regard it as immanent in the 
obscure strivings of living organisms. In the one 
view we fulfil God's purposes ; in the other we fulfil 
our own, though these are better than we know. 
Like most controversial questions, the question of the 
purposiveness of evolution has become entangled 
in a mass of detail. When, long ago, Huxley and Mr. 



Gladstone debated the truth of the Christian 
religion in the pages of the Nineteenth Century, this 
great issue was found to turn upon the question 
whether the Gadarene swine had belonged to a Jew 
or a Gentile, since in the latter case, but not in the 
former, their destruction involved an unwarrantable 
interference with private property. Similarly the 
question of purpose in evolution becomes entangled 
in the habits of the amophila, the behaviour of 
sea-urchins when turned upside-down, and the 
aquatic or terrestial habits of the axolotl. But such 
questions, grave as they are, we may leave to 

In passing from physics to biology one is conscious 
of a transition from the cosmic to the parochial. In 
physics and astronomy we are dealing with the 
universe at large, and not only with that corner of 
it in which we happen to live, nor with those aspects 
of it which we happen to exemplify. From a cosmic 
point of view, life is a very unimportant phenomenon : 
very few stars have planets; very few planets can 
support life. Life, even on the earth, belongs to only 
a very small proportion of the matter close to the 
earth's surface. During the greater part of the past 
existence of the earth, it was too hot to support life ; 
during the greater part of its future existence, it 
will be too cold. It is by no means impossible that 
there is, at this moment, no life anywhere in the 
universe except on the earth; but even if, taking a 

very liberal estimate, we suppose that there are 



scattered through space some hundred thousand 
other planets on which life exists, it must still be 
admitted that living matter makes rather a poor 
show if considered as the purpose of the whole 
creation. There are some old gentlemen who are 
fond of prosy anecdotes leading at last to a "point" ; 
imagine an anecdote longer than any you have 
ever heard, and the "point" shorter, and you will 
have a fair picture of the activities of the Creator 
according to the biologists. Moreover, the "point" 
of the anecdote, even when it is reached, appears 
hardly worthy of so long a preface. I am willing to 
admit that there is merit in the tail of the fox, the 
song of the thrush, or the horns of the ibex. But it 
is not to these things that the evolutionary theologian 
points with pride : it is to the soul of man. Unfortu- 
nately, there is no impartial arbiter to decide on 
the merits of the human race; but for my part, 
when I consider their atomic bombs, their researches 
into bacteriological warfare, their meannesses, 
cruelties and oppressions, I find them, considered 
as the crowning gem of the creation, somewhat 
lacking in lustre. But let that pass. 

Is there any tiling in the process of evolution that 
demands the hypothesis of a purpose, whether 
immanent or transcendent? This is the crucial 
question. For one who is not a biologist it is difficult 
to speak otherwise than with hesitation on this 
question. I am, however, entirely unconvinced by the 

arguments in favour of purpose that I have seen. 



The behaviour of animals and plants is on the 
whole such as to lead to certain results, which the 
observing biologist interprets as the purpose of the 
behaviour. In the case of plants, at any rate, he is 
generally willing to concede that this purpose is 
not consciously entertained by the organism; but 
that is all the better if he wishes to prove that it is 
the purpose of a Creator. I am, however, quite 
unable to sec why an intelligent Creator should have 
the purposes which we must attribute to Him if He 
has really designed all that happens in the world of 
organic life. Nor does the progress of scientific 
investigation afford any evidence that the behaviour 
of living matter is governed by anything other than 
laws of physics and chemistry. Take, for example, 
the process of digestion. The first step in this process 
is the seizing of food. This has been carefully studied 
in many animals, more particularly in chickens. 
New-born chickens have a reflex which causes them 
to peck at any object having more or less the shape 
and size of edible grains. After some experience this 
unconditioned reflex becomes transformed into a 
conditioned reflex, exactly after the manner studied 
by Pavlov. The same thing may be observed in 
babies: they suck not only their mothers' breasts, 
but everything physically capable of being sucked ; 
they endeavour to extract food out of shoulders and 
hands and arms. It is only after months of experience 
that they learn to confine their efforts after nourish- 
ment to the breast. Sucking in infants is at first an 



unconditioned reflex, and by no means an intelligent 
one. It depends for its success upon the intelligence 
of the mother. Chewing and swallowing are at first 
unconditioned reflexes, though through experience 
they become conditioned. The chemical processes 
which the foodjmdcrgoes^t^yanoTis^ta^es of diges- 
tiorTliave been minutely studied, andjnojijafLthem 
require the invocation_ofan^rjeculiar vital principle. 

Or take Ifgain" reproduction, which, though not 
universal throughout the animal kingdom, is never- 
theless one of its most interesting peculiarities. There 
is now nothing in this process that can rightly be 
called mysterious. I do not mean to say that it is all 
fully understood, but that mechanistic principles 
have explained enough of it to make it probable that, 
given time, they will explain the whole. Jacques 
Loeb, over thirty-five years ago, discovered means 
of fertilizing an ovum without the intervention 
of a spermatozoon. He sums up the results of his 
experiments and those of other investigators in the 
sentence: "We may, therefore, state that the com- 
plete imitation of the developmental effect of the 
spermatozoon by certain physico-chemical agencies 
has been accomplished." 1 

Take again the question of heredity, which is 
closely associated with that of reproduction. The 
present state of scientific knowledge in regard to this 
matter is set forth very ably by Professor Hogben in 
his book on The Nature of Living Matter, more particu- 

The Mechanistic Conception of Life, 1912, p. n. 

I 1*9 


larly in the chapter on the atomistic view of parent- 
hood. In this chapter the reader can learn all that 
a layman needs to know about the Mendelian theory, 
chromosomes, mutants, etc. I do not see how any- 
body can, in view of what is now known on these 
subjects, maintain that there is anything in the 
theory of heredity requiring us to bow down before 
a mystery. The experimental stage of embryology 
is still recent, yet it has achieved remarkable results : 
it has shown that the conception of an organism 
which had dominated biology is not nearly so 
rigid as had been supposed. 

To graft the eye of one salamander tadpole on to the head of 
another individual is now a commonplace of experimental 
embryology. Five-legged and two-headed newts are now 
manufactured in the laboratory. 1 

But all this, the reader may say, is concerned only 
with the body; what are we to say concerning the 
mind ? As to this, the question is not quite so simple. 
We may observe, to begin with, that the mental 
processes of animals are purely hypothetical, and 
that the scientific treatment of animals must confine 
itself to their behaviour and to their physical pro- 
cesses, since these alone are observable. I do not mean 
that we should deny that animals have minds; I 
mean merely that in so far as we are scientific we 
should say nothing about their minds one way or 
the other. As a matter of fact, the behaviour of their 
bodies appears to be causally self-contained, in the 

1 Hogben, op. cit., p. in. 


sense that its explanation docs not, at any point, 
demand the intervention of some unobservable 
entity which we could call a mind. The theory of the 
conditioned reflex deals satisfactorily with all those 
cases in which it was formerly thought that a mental 
causation is essential for explaining the behaviour 
of the animal. When we come to human beings, we 
seem still able to explain the behaviour of human 
bodies on the assumption that there is no extraneous 
agent called mind acting upon them. But in the case 
of human beings this statement is much more ques- 
tionable than in the case of other animals, both 
because the behaviour of human beings is more 
complex, and because we know, or think we know, 
through introspection, that we have minds. There 
is no doubt that we do know something about our- 
selves which is commonly expressed by saying that 
we have minds ; but, as often happens, although we 
know something it is very difficult to say what we 
know. More particularly it is difficult to show that 
the causes of our bodily behaviour are not purely 
physical. It seems to introspection as though there 
were something called the will which causes those 
movements that we call voluntary. It is, however, 
quite possible that such movements have a complete 
chain of physical causes to which the will (whatever 
it may be) is a mere concomitant. Or perhaps, 
since the subject-matter of physics is no longer matter 
in the old sense, it may be that what we call our 
thoughts are ingredients of the complexes with which 


physics has replaced the old conception of matter. 
The dualism of mind and matter is out of date: 
matter has become more like mind, and mind has 
become more like matter, than seemed possible at 
an earlier stage of science. One is -led to suppose that 
what really exists is something intermediate between 
the billiard-balls of old-fashioned materialism and the 
soul of old-fashioned psychology. 

iereis x Jiej- r stipwever,_an important jlistinction 
be made. There 

Fun the worj 

>~ ; - 

* H;- 

from its 

^i^*""**^^*^"* *i ni^ii "* 

^of exclusively, a form of what may be^allcdpower- 

conccrncd to 
understand wjp**' causes the processes we observe 
rather than to Analyse the ingredients of which they 
are composed. The highly abstract scheme of 
physics gives, it would seem, the causal skeleton of 
the world, while leaving out all the colour and 
variety and individuality of the things that compose 
the world. Injsuggesting 

suppli^d_byphyj5ics is^frf theory, adequate to give 
thq^causal laws governinjy"tlieDe^ 

not sulrirelfflrig that this bare abstrac- 


rnind^or for that matter~aHout the actual constitu- 
tion of what we regard as matter. The billiard-balls 
of old-fashioned materialism were far too concrete 
and sensible to be admitted into the framework of 


modern physics, but the same is true of cfur thoughts. 
The concrete variety of the actual world seems to be 
largely irrelevant when we are investigating these 
causal processes. Let us take an illustration. The 

prinrjplp nf thf> lf>ypr is gimplp anrl fvacily nnrWctnnfi 

It depends only upon the relative positions of the 
fulcrum, force, and resistance. It may happen that 
the actual lever employed is covered with exquisite 
pictures by a painter of genius ; although these may 
be of more importance from the emotional point of 
view than the mechanistic properties of the lever, 
they do not in any way affect those properties, and 
may be wholly omitted in an account of what the 
lever can do. So it is with the world. The worh 
we perceive it is full of a rich variety : some of it is 
beautiful, some of it is ugly : parts seem to us_gopcT, 
parts bad. Butall^this has nothing to do wijh-tbc 
purely caus'al ^properties of things, and it is these 
wi*b whiVh ^iVnyf ic mnr*rnprl I am 

not suggesting that if we knew these properties 
completely we should have a complete knowledge 
of the world, for its concrete y^ ri>f> ty is ?" pr |"a11y 
legitimate object of knowledge. \^haj: \ am. saying is 
that <j(-^nrp is fhflt SOrt Of knnwIpHnrp whirb- 

causal understanding 

_an in all 

it this sort oj 


xoonpletgd, even where 

living bodies arc concerned, without taking account 

- ^______ * 

of anything but thcir4>hysical and chemical proper- 
ties^JLn -saying this we are, of course, going beyond 
what can at present be said with any certainty, but 



the work that has been done in recent times in 
physiology, biochemistry, embryology, the mechan- 
ism of sensation, 1 and so on irresistibly suggests the 
truth of our conclusion. 

One of the best statements of the point of view 
of a religiously minded biologist is to be found 
in Lloyd Morgan's Emergent Evolution (1923) and 
Life, Mind and Spirit (1926). Lloyd MpjgaaJielicves 
that there is a Diyine_JPnrpose*'und^rlying the course 

Of PvnlnHnn^jTinrp partimlarly nf what TIP- rqjls 

''emergent evolution." The definition of emergent 
evolution,"Tf I understand it rightly, is as follows: 
it sometimes happens that a collection of objects 
arranged in a suitable pattern will have a new 
property which does not belong to the objects singly, 
and which cannot, so far as we can see, be deduced 
from their several properties together with the way 
in which they are arranged. He considers that there 
are examples of the same kind of thing even in the 
inorganic realm. The atom, the molecule, and the 
crystal will all have properties which, if I understand 
Lloyd Morgan aright, he regard s_as_not dcducible 
fromthe properties of their constituents. The same 
holds in a higher degree of living organisms, and 
most of all with those higher organisms which 
possess what are called minds. Our minds, he would 
say, are, it is true, associated with the physical 
organism, but are not deducible from the properties 
of that organism considered as an arrangement of 

1 See. e.g., The Basis of Sensation, by E. D. Adrian, 1928. 


atoms in space. "Emergent evolution." he says, "is 
from first to last a revelation ano 1 

that whicli_I speak of as tHvine Purpose." Again he 
says : "Some of us, and I for one, end with a concept 
of activity, under acknowledgment, as part and 
parcel of Divine Purpose." Sin, however, is not 
contributory to the manifestation of the Divine 
Purpose (p. 288). 

It would be easier to deal with this view if any 
reasons were advanced in its favour, but so far as 
I have been able to discover from Professor Lloyd 
Morgan's pages, he considers that the doctrine is 
its own recommendation and does not need to be 
demonstrated by appeals to the mere understanding. 
I do not pretend to know whether Professor Lloyd 
Morgan's opinion is false. For aught I know to the 
contrary, there may be a Being of infinite power who 
chooses that children should die of meningitis, and 
older people of cancer; these things occur, and occur 
as the result of evolution. If, therefore^ jsvolution 
embodies a Divine Plan, these occurrences must 
aistrhav'c been planned. I have been ipformpfi that 
suffering is sent as a purification for sin, but I find 
it difficult to think that a child of four or five years 
old can be sunk in such black depths of iniquity as to 
deserve the punishment that befalls not a few of the 
children whom our optimistic divines might see any 
day, if they chose, suffering torments in children's 
hospitals. Again, I am told that though the child 
himself may not have sinned very deeply, he deserves 


to suffer on account of his parents' wickedness. I can 
only repeat that if this is the Divine sense of justice 
it differs from mine, and that I think mine superior. 
T^inrWH thf* wnrlH in whir.h wfi Hye. has faf.TL.pEQ. 
duccd in accordance with a Plan, we gjiall havpjto- 
rcckon Nero a saint in comparison with t\\^ t A'lfoftr 
of that^PlajL. Fortunately, however, the evidence of 
)ivine Purpose is non-existent ; so at least one must 
infer from the fact that no evidence is adduced by 
those who believe in it. We are, therefore, spared 
the necessity for that attitude of impotent hatred 
which every brave and humane man would otherwise 
be called upon to adopt towards the Almighty 

We have reviewed in this chapter a number of 
different apologies for religion on the part of eminent 
men of science. We have seen that Eddington and 
Jeans contradict each other, and that both contradict 
the biological theologians, but all agree that in the 
last resort science should abdicate before what is 
called the religious consciousness. This attitude is 
regarded by themselves and by their admirers as 
more optimistic than that of the uncompromising 
rationalist. It is, in fact, quite the opposite : it is the 
outcome of discouragement and loss of faith. Timc^ 
was when religion was believed with whole-hearted 
fcjvburjjvvhen Inen went on crusades and^burncd 
the stake because of the intensity of 

^ -j- | - , i i i i " i 

their convictions. After the wars of religion theology 
gradually lest this jnteny* hold on men's 


So far as anything has taken its place, its place has 
been taken by science. In the name of science we 
revolutionize industry, undermine family morals, 
enslave coloured races, and skilfully exterminate 
each other with poison gases. Some men of science 
do not altogether like these uses to which science is 
being put. In terror and dismay jhey_ shrink from. 
the imQompromising pursuit f knowledge and try 
tOvfind refuge in the superstitions of an earlier day. 
As Professor TTbgben says : 

The apologetic attitude_SQ.4?reyalentjix^cienefr to-day-Ja-jaot 
a logigal^oufcoiiie of the introduction of new concepts. It is 
based upon JEg~Ho]pe^fj^ihsTa3iBg .traditional bcljeJ&L-with 
which science was at one time in J^pen conflict. This hope is 
not a by-product of scienti Rediscovery. It has its roots in the 
social temper of the period. For half a decade the nations of 
Europe abandoned the exercise of reason in their relations with 
one another. Intellectual detachment was disloyalty. Criticism 
of traditional belief was treason. Philosophers and men of 
science bowed to the inexorable decree of herd suggestion. 
Compromise to traditional belief became the hall-mark of good 
citizenship. Contemporary philosophy has yet to find a way 
out of the intellectual discouragement which is the heritage 
of a World War.' 

Tt i j^pt; hy flm'npr backward that we shall find an 
issue from our jroublcs. No slothful relapses into 
infantile fantasies will direct the new power which 
men have derived from science into the right chan- 
nels ; nor will philosophic scepticism as to the founda- 
tions arrest the course of scientific technique in the 
world of affairs. Men need a faith which is robust 

op. cit., p. 28. 

and reaiot^imid-a^4mll^^arted. Science is in 

its "essence nothing but the systematic pursuit of 
knowledge, and knowledge, whatever ill-uses bad 
men may make of it, is in its essence good. To lose 
faith in knowledge is to lose faith i 
capacities ; and therefore I 

has a better faith and a 

more unbending optimism than j3LnyLJo-ih.c. timid 
seekers after the childish comforts of a less adult age. 




No sharp line can be drawn between scientific 
technique and traditional arts and crafts. The essen- 
tial characteristic of scientific technique is the 
utilization of natural forces in ways not evident to 
the totally uninstructed. A certain apparatus of 
desires is presupposed : men want food, offspring, 
clothing, housing, amusement, and glory. Unin- 
structed man can realize these things only very 
partially; man scientifically equipped can obtain 
much more of them. Compare, say, King Cyrus and 
a modern American billionaire. King Cyrus was, 
perhaps, the superior of the modern magnate in two 
respects; his clothes were grander, and his wives 
more numerous. At the same time, it is probable 
that his wives' clothes were not so grand as the 
clothes of the modern magnate's wife. Jt is part of 
the superiority of the modern magnatetEat he is 
not obliged to dress in^littcrnTg^raTment "in order 
toJ2S^3EMCSrje_great ; the newspapers see to this. 
I suppose not one hundredth as many people knew 
of Cyrus in his lifetime as know of a Hollywood star. 
Thjs increased possibility of glory is due to scientific 
te^hniojie.Jn all the other objects of human desire 
which we enumerated just now, it is quite clear 
that modern technique has immensely increased the 



number of those who can enjoy a certain measure of 
satisfaction. The number of people who now own 
cars is greatly in excess of the number who had 
enough to eat one hundred and fifty years ago. 
By sanitation and hygiene the scientific nations have 
put an end to typhus and plague and a host of other 
diseases which still flourish in the East and formerly 
afflicted Western Europe. If one may judge by 
behaviour, one of the most ardent desires of the 
human race, or at any rate of its more energetic 
portions, has been until recently a mere increase of 
numbers. In this respect science has proved extra- 
ordinarily successful. Compare the number of people 
in Europe in the year 1700 with the number of 
European descent at the present day. The population 
of England in 1700 was about 5 million, and is 
now about 40 million. The population of other 
European countries, with the exception of France, 
has probably increased in about the same proportion. 
The population of European descent at the present 
day is about 725 millions. Other races, meanwhile, 
have increased very much less. It is true that in this 
respect a change is coming over the world. The most 
scientific races no longer increase much, and really 
rapid increases are now confined to countries in 
which the government is scientific while the popula- 
tion is unscientific. This, however, arises from quite 
recent causes which we shall not consider at present. 
The earliest beginnings of scientific technique 

belong to prehistoric times; nothing is known, for 



example, as to the origin of the use of fire, though 
the difficulty of procuring fire in early times is shown 
by the care with which sacred fires were tended in 
Rome and other early civilized communities. 
Agriculture also is prehistoric in origin, though 
perhaps it did not precede the dawn of history by any 
very long period. The domestication of animals is 
mainly prehistoric, but not wholly: according to 
some authorities, the horse burst upon Western Asia 
in the days of the Sumerians, and gave military 
victory to those who employed it in preference to 
the ass. In countries with a dry climate the beginning 
of writing practically coincides with the beginning 
of history, since early records survive in Egypt and 
Babylonia much longer than they would do in a less 
parched soil. The next great stage in scientific 
technique was the working of metals, which falls 
entirely within the historical epoch. It is no doubt 
because iron was a recent invention that in certain 
passages of the Bible its use is forbidden in the 
construction of altars. Roads, from the earliest 
period down to the fall of Napoleon, have been 
constructed chiefly for military reasons. They were 
essential to the coherence of large empires ; they 
first became important for this purpose under the 
Persians, and were developed to their fullest extent 
by the Romans. The Middle Ages added gunpowder 
and the mariner's compass, and, at their very end, 
the invention of printing. 

To one accustomed to the elaborate technique of 



modern life, all this may not seem to amount to very 
much, but it did in fact make the difference between 
primitive man and the highest grade of intellectual 
and artistic civilization. We are accustomed, in our 
own day, to protests against the -empire of machinery 
and eloquent yearnings for a return to a simpler 
day. In all this there is nothing new. Lao-Tze, who 
preceded Confucius and lived (if he lived at all) 
in the sixth century B.C., is just as eloquent as 
Ruskin on the subject of the destruction of ancient 
beauty by modern mechanical inventions. Roads and 
bridges and boats filled him with horror because 
they were unnatural. He speaks of music as modern 
high-brows speak of the cinema. He finds the hurry 
of modern life fatal to the contemplative outlook. 
When he could bear it no longer he left China, and 
disappeared among the Western barbarians. He 
believed that men should live according to nature 
a view which is continually recurring throughout 
the ages, though always with a different connotation. 
Rousseau also believed in the return to nature, but 
no longer objected to roads and bridges and boats. 
It was Courts and late hours and the sophisticated 
pleasures of the rich that roused his ire. The sort of 
man that seemed to him an unspoiled child of nature 
would have seemed to Lao-Tze incredibly different 
from those that he calls "the pure men of old." 
Lao-Tze objects to the taming of horses, and to the 
arts of the potter and carpenter ; to Rousseau the 
carpenter would seem the very epitome of honest 


toil. "Return to nature" means, in practice, return 
to those conditions to which the writer in question 
was accustomed in his youth. Return to nature, if 
it were taken seriously, would involve the death by 
starvation of some 90 per cent, of the population of 
civilized countries. Industrialism as it exists at the 
present day undoubtedly has grave difficulties, but 
they are not to be cured by a return to the past, 
any more than were the difficulties from which China 
suffered in the time of Lao-Tze, or France in the 
time of Rousseau. 

Science as knowledge advanced very rapidly 
throughout the whole of the seventeenth and 
eighteenth centuries, but it was not until near the 
end of the eighteenth century that it began to affect 
the technique of production. There was less change 
in methods of work from Ancient Egypt to 1750 than 
there has been from 1750 to the present day. Certain 
fundamental advances had been slowly acquired : 
speech, fire, writing, agriculture, the domestication 
of animals, the working of metals, gunpowder, 
printing, and the art of governing a large empire 
from a centre, though this last could not attain 
anything like its present perfection before the 
invention of the telegraph and steam locomotion. 
Each of these advances, because it came slowly, was 
fitted in, without too much difficulty, to the frame- 
work of traditional life, and men were at no point 
conscious of a revolution in their daily habits. 

Almost all the things that an adult man wished to 

K 145 


speak about had been familiar to him as a child, and 
to his father and grandfather before him. This had, 
undoubtedly, certain good effects which have become 
lost through the rapid technical progress of modern 
times. The poet could speak of contemporary life 
in words that had become rich through long usage, 
and full of colour through the embedded emotions 
of past ages. Nowadays he must either ignore 
contemporary life or fill his poems with words that 
are stark and harsh. It is possible, in poetry, to 
write a letter, but difficult to speak over the tele- 
phone ; it is possible to listen to Lydian airs, but not 
to the radio ; it is possible to ride like the wind upon 
a fiery steed, but difficult, in any known metre, to 
go much faster than the wind in an automobile. 
The poet may wish for wings to fly to his love, but 
feels rather foolish in doing so when he remembers 
that he could order an aeroplane at Croydon. 

The aesthetic effects of science have thus been on 
the whole unfortunate, not, I think, owing to any 
essential quality of science, but owing to the rapidly 
changing environment in which modern man lives. 
In other respects, however, the effects of science 
have been much more fortunate. 

It is a curious fact that the doubts as to the 
ultimate metaphysical value of scientific knowledge 
have no bearing whatever upon its usefulness in 
relation to the technique of production. Scientific 
method is closely connected with the social virtue 

of impartiality. Piaget, in his book on Judgment and 


Reasoning in the Child, contends that the reasoning 
faculty is a product of the social sense. Every child, 
he says, begins with a dream of omnipotence, in 
which all facts are bent to his wishes. Gradually, 
through contact with others, he is forced to the 
realization that their wishes may be opposed to his, 
and that his wishes are not invariable arbiters of 
truth. Reasoning, according to Piaget, develops as a 
method of arriving at a social truth upon which all 
men can agree. This condition is, I think, largely 
valid, and emphasizes one great merit of the scientific 
method, namely, that it tends to avoid those intract- 
able disputes which arise when private emotion is 
regarded as the test of truth. Piaget ignores another 
aspect of scientific method, namely, that it gives 
power over the environment and also power of 
adaptation to the environment. It may be, for 
example, an advantage to be able to predict the 
weather, and if one man is right on this point while 
all his companions are wrong, the advantage 
nevertheless remains with him, though a purely 
social definition of truth would compel us to regard 
him as in the wrong. It is success in this practical 
test of power over the environment, or adaptation 
to it; which has given science its prestige. The 
Chinese Emperors repeatedly refrained from perse- 
cuting the Jesuits because the latter were in the right 
as to the dates of eclipses when the Chinese astrono- 
mers were in the wrong. All modern life is built upon 
this practical success of science, at any rate where 



the inanimate world is concerned. It has had 
hitherto less success in direct applications to man, 
and it therefore still meets with opposition from 
traditional beliefs where man is concerned, but it 
cannot well be doubted that, if our civilization 
survives, man also will soon come to be viewed 
scientifically. This will have a great effect upon 
education and the criminal law, perhaps also on 
family life. Such developments, however, belong to 
the future. 

The essential novelty about scientific technique is 
the utilization of natural forces jin ways that are .not 
obvious to untrained observation, but have been 
discovered by deliberate research. The use of steam, 
which was one of the earliest steps in modern 
technique, is on the borderline, since anybody can 
observe the force of steam in a kettle, as James 
Watt is traditionally supposed to have done. The 
use of electricity is far more definitely scientific. The 
use of water-power in an old-fashioned water-mill 
is pre-scientific, because the whole mechanism is 
patent to the untrained observer; but the modern 
use of water-power by means of turbines is scientific, 
since the process engendered is completely surprising 
to the person without scientific knowledge. Clearly 
the line between scientific and traditional technique 
is not a sharp one, and no one can say exactly where 
the one ends and the other begins. Primitive agricul- 
turists used human bodies for manure, and imagined 

their beneficial effect to be magical. This stage was 


definitely pre-scientific. The use of natural manures, 
which succeeded it and has persisted down to our 
own day, is scientific if it is regulated by a careful 
study of organic chemistry, but unscientific if it 
proceeds by rule of thumb. The use of artificial 

*w . f _ . "~ -- - - ~^.- - - -*-**- 

nitrates, since it employs chemical processes only 
found after long search by skilful chemists, is defi- 
nitely and unambiguously scientific. 

The most essential characteristic of scientific 
technique is that it proceeds from experiment, not 
from tradition. The experimental habit of mind is 
a difficult one for most people to maintain ; indeed, 
the science of one generation has already become the 
tradition of the next, and there are still wide fields, 
notably that of religion, into which the experimental 
spirit has hardly penetrated at all. Nevertheless it is 
this spirit which is characteristic of modern times as 
contrasted with all earlier ages, and it is because of 
this spirit that the power of man in relation to his 
environment has become, during the last hundred 
and fifty years, so immeasurably greater than it was 
in the civilization of the past. 



THE greatest triumphs of applied science so far have 
been in the realm of physics and chemistry. When 
people think of scientific technique they think 
primarily of machines. It seems probable that in the 
near future science will achieve equal triumphs in 
biological and physiological directions, and will 
ultimately acquire as much power to change men's 
minds as it already has power to deal with our 
inanimate environment. In the present chapter, 
however, I shall not be concerned with the biological 
applications of science, but with the more familiar 
and hackneyed theme of its applications in the realm 
of machinery. 

Most machines, in the narrower sense of that word, 
do not involve anything that deserves to be called 
science. Machines were, in origin, merely a means 
of causing inanimate material to go through a series 
of regular movements which had hitherto been 
performed by the bodies, and especially the fingers, 
of human beings. This is particularly obvious in the 
case of spinning and weaving. Not very much science 
was involved in the invention of railways, or in the 
early stages of steam-navigation. Men were here 
utilizing forces that were by no means recondite in 

ways, which though they astonished, ought not to 


have been astonishing. When we come to electricity, 
however, the matter is otherwise. A practical 
electrician has to develop a new type of common 
sense, of which the man ignorant of electricity is 
totally devoid. This new type of common sense 
consists entirely of knowledge discovered by means 
of science. A man whose days have been passed in 
a simple rural existence knows the kind of thing that 
a mad bull is likely to do, but however old and 
sagacious he may become he will not know what an 
electric current is likely to do. 

One of the purposes of industrial technique has 
always been to substitute other forms of power for 
the power of human muscles. Animals depend 
completely upon their own muscles for securing the 
satisfaction of their wants, and primitive man, one 
must suppose, shared this dependence. Gradually, 
as men acquired more knowledge, they became 
increasingly able to command sources of power 
which left their own muscles unfatigued. Some 
genius in some forgotten antiquity invented the 
wheel, and some other genius induced the ox and 
the horse to make the wheel go round. It must have 
been a much more difficult job to tame the ox and 
the horse than it has proved to tame electricity, but 
the difficulty was one of patience, not of intelligence. 
Electricity, like a djinn in the Arabian Nights, is a 
patient servant to anyone who knows the right 
formula: the discovery ot the formula is difficult, 
but the rest is easy. In the case of the ox and the 



horse no great skill was required to see that their 
muscles could do more effectively the work that 
human muscles had previously done, but it must 
have been a long time before the ox and the horse 
became submissive to the will of their tamers. 
There are those who say that they were tamed 
because they were worshipped, and that the practi- 
cal utilization of them came later, after the priests 
had completely domesticated them. This theory is 
inherently probable, since almost all great advances 
have sprung originally from disinterested motives. 
Scientific discoveries have been made for their 
own sake and not for their utilization, and a race of 
men without a disinterested love of knowledge 
would never have achieved our present scientific 
technique. Take, for example, the theory of electro- 
magnetic waves, upon which the use of wireless 
depends. Relevant scientific knowledge begins with 
Faraday, who first investigated experimentally the 
connection of the intervening medium with electric 
phenomena. Faraday was no mathematician, but 
his results were reduced to mathematical form by 
Clerk-Maxwell, who discovered by means of purely 
theoretical constructions that light consists of electro- 
magnetic waves. The next stage in the proceedings 
was due to Hertz, who first artificially manufactured 
electro-magnetic waves. What remained to be done 
was merely to invent apparatus by which these 
waves could be produced with a commercial profit. 
This step, as everyone knows, was taken by Marconi. 


Faraday, Maxwell, and Hertz, so far as can be 
discovered, never for a moment considered the 
possibility of any practical application of their 
investigations. Indeed, until the investigations were 
almost completed it was impossible to foresee the 
uses to which they could be put. 

Even in cases where the purpose throughout has 
been practical, the solution of one problem has very 
often resulted from the solution of another with 
which it had no apparent connection. Take, for 
example, the problem of flying. This has, at all 
times, exercised men's imaginations. Leonardo da 
Vinci devoted far more time to it than he did to 
painting. But men were misled until our own day 
by the notion that they must find a mechanism 
analogous to the wings of birds. It was only the 
discovery of the petrol engine, and its development 
for the sake of motor-cars, that led to a solution of 
the problem of flying, and in the early stages of the 
petrol engine it did not occur to anyone that it 
would prove capable of this application. 

One of the most difficult problems of modern 
technique is that of raw materials. Industry uses up 
at a continually increasing rate substances which 
have been stored throughout geological time in the 
earth's crust, and which are not being replaced in 
any usable form. One of the most flagrant instances 
is oil. The supply of oil in the world is limited, and 
the consumption of oil is continually and rapidly 
increasing. It will probably not be very long before 


the world's supply is practically exhausted unless 
indeed the wars which will take place for its posses- 
sion are sufficiently destructive to reduce the level 
of civilization to a point where oil will no longer be 
needed. We may, I suppose, a'ssume, if our civiliza- 
tion has not suffered a cataclysm, that some substi- 
tute for oil will be discovered as oil becomes more 
expensive through rarity. But, as this example 
shows, industrial technique can never become static 
and traditional as agricultural technique did in 
former times. It will be perpetually necessary to 
invent new processes and to find new sources of 
power, owing to the extraordinary rapidity with 
which we are consuming our terrestrial capital. 
There are, of course, some practically inexhaustible 
sources of power, notably wind and water; the 
latter, however, even if fully utilized, would be very 
inadequate to the world's needs. The utilization of 
wind, owing to its irregularity, would require vast 
accumulators more free from leakage than any that 
can now be manufactured. 

The dependence upon natural products which we 
have inherited from a simpler age is likely to grow 
less with the progress of chemistry. It is probable 
that in a very near future synthetic rubber will 
replace the rubber-tree, as artificial silk is already 
replacing natural silk. Artificial woods can already 
be manufactured, though this is not yet a commercial 
proposition. But the exhaustion of the world's 
forests, which is imminent owing to the growth of 



newspapers, will soon make it necessary to employ 
other materials than wood-pulp for the production 
of paper unless indeed the habit of hearing the 
news on the wireless leads men to abandon the 
written word as the source of their daily sensation. 

One of the scientific possibilities of the future which 
may have great importance is the control of climate 
by artificial means. There are those who say that if 
a breakwater some twenty miles long were con- 
structed at a suitable point on the Eastern coast of 
Canada, it would completely transform the climate 
of South-East Canada and New England, since it 
would cause the cold current which now flows along 
their shores to sink to the bottom of the sea, leaving 
the surface to be replenished by warm water from 
the South. I do not vouch for the truth of this 
idea, but it serves to illustrate possibilities which 
may in future be realized. To take another illus- 
tration: the greater part of the land between 
latitudes 30 and 40 has been gradually drying up 
and supports at present, in many regions, a much 
smaller population than it did two thousand years 
ago. In Southern California irrigation has trans- 
formed the desert into one of the most fertile regions 
of the world. There is no known means of irrigating 
the Sahara or the Gobi Desert, but perhaps the 
problem of rendering these regions fertile will not, 
in the end, prove beyond the resources of science. 

Modern technique has given man a sense of power 
which is rapidly altering his whole mentality. 



Until recent times, the physical environment was 
something which had to be accepted and made the 
best of. If the rainfall became insufficient to support 
life, the only alternatives were death or migration. 
Those who were strong in war adopted the latter, 
and those who were weak the former. To the modern 
man his physical environment is merely raw 
material, an opportunity for manipulation. It may 
be that God made the world, but that is no reason 
why we should not make it over. This attitude, far 
more than any intellectual arguments, is proving 
inimical to traditional religion. Traditional religion 
embodied the idea of man's dependence upon God. 
This idea, while still nominally acknowledged, no 
longer has the hold on the imagination of the modern 
scientific industrialist that it had on the primitive 
peasant or fisherman, to whom droughts or storms 
might bring death. To the typical modern mind 
nothing is interesting on account of what it is, but 
only on account of what it may be made to become. 
The important characteristics of things from this 
point of view are not their intrinsic qualities, but 
their uses. Everything is an instrument. If you ask 
what it is an instrument to, the answer will be that 
it is an instrument for the making of instruments, 
which will in turn make still more powerful instru- 
ments, and so on ad infinitum. In psychological 
terms, this means that the love of power has thrust 
aside all the other impulses that make the complete 

human life. Love, parenthood, pleasure, and beauty 


are of less account to the modern industrialist than 
to the princely magnates of past times. Manipulation 
and exploitation are the ruling passions of the typical 
scientific industrialist. The average man may not 
share this narrow concentration, but for that very 
reason he fails to acquire a hold on the sources 
of power, and leaves the practical government of 
the world to the fanatics of mechanism. The 
power of producing changes in the world which 
is possessed by the leaders of big business in the 
present age far exceeds the power ever possessed 
by individuals in the past. They may not be as 
free to cut off heads as were Nero or Jenghiz 
Khan, but they can settle who shall starve and who 
shall become rich, they can divert the course of 
rivers, and decree the fall of governments. All 
history shows that great power is intoxicating. 
Fortunately, the modern holders of power are not 
yet quite aware how much they could do if they 
chose, but when this knowledge dawns upon them 
a new era in human tyranny is to be expected. 



SCIENTIFIC technique has been applied by human 
beings to satisfy a number of diverse desires. At first 
it was applied mainly to the production of clothing 
and to the transport of goods and human beings. 
With the telegraph it acquired important functions 
in the rapid transmission of messages, making 
possible the modern newspaper and the centralization 
of government. A great deal of first-class scientific 
intelligence has found its chief effect in the increase 
of trivial amusement. The most fundamental of all 
human needs, namely, food, was at first not much 
influenced by the Industrial Revolution; the 
opening-up of the American Middle West by means 
of railways was the first great change in regard to 
food that was caused by scientific technique. Since 
that time Canada, the Argentine, and India have 
become important sources of grain for European 
countries. The mobility of cereals which we owe to 
railways and steamships has removed the menace of 
famine which hung over all mediaeval countries, and 
which has, even in quite recent years, afflicted both 
Russia and China. This change, however, important 
as it is, has not been due to the application of science 
to agriculture. In recent times biological science has 
been found of growing importance in relation to the 


food supply. Economists used to teach that modern 
technique could only cheapen manufactured articles, 
while food was to increase steadily in price as 
population increased. It did not, until recently, 
appear probable that a revolution in food production 
as important as the revolution in the production of 
manufactured goods might be brought about by the 
application of science. Nowadays, however, this 
seems far from improbable. 

There has not been, in relation to agriculture, any 
one resounding and revolutionary invention analo- 
gous to the introduction of steam, but a number of 
different lines of research have each contributed 
something towards a result which, in the aggregate, 
is likely to be very large. 

Take, for example, the question of nitrogen in 
agriculture. Everybody knows that all living bodies, 
whether of plants or animals, contain a certain 
percentage of nitrogen. Animals obtain nitrogen 
only by eating plants or other animals. How do 
plants obtain nitrogen? This was for a long time a 
mystery; it seemed natural to suppose that they 
might obtain it from the air (more particularly from 
the small quantities of ammonia which it contains), 
but experiments proved that this was not the case. 
This conclusion having been arrived at, it remained 
to discover how plants obtained nitrogen from the 
soil. This problem was studied by two men, Lawes 
and Gilbert, who throughout a period of sixty years 
conducted a series of experiments at Rothamsted, 


near Harpenden. They found that the great majority 
of plants do not possess the power of fixing nitrogen. 
In the year 1886, however, Hellricgel and Wilfrath 
found that clover and other leguminous plants have 
a special part to play in the fixation of nitrogen. 
This was due to nodules in their roots, or rather not 
to the nodules themselves, but to certain species of 
bacteria which lived in the nodules. If the bacteria 
were absent, these plants were no better than 
others with regard to fixation of nitrogen; the 
bacteria, therefore, are the essential agents. 

It may be said generally that bacteria alone, so 
far as is known at present, have the power, some to 
transform ammonia into nitrates, and others to 
utilize atmospheric nitrogen. Ammonia consists of 
nitrogen and hydrogen, while nitrates consist of 
nitrogen and oxygen. Certain bacteria in the soil 
possess the power of getting rid of the hydrogen in 
ammonia and replacing it by oxygen. The nitrates 
which they thus produce are capable of nourishing 
ordinary plants. It is partly in this way, and partly 
by means of the bacteria that utilize atmospheric 
nitrogen, that nitrogen passes from the inanimate 
world into the life cycle. : 

Until the exploitation of Chilean nitrates, this was 

the only way in which the nitrates required to 

upport life came into being. The nitrates that were 

used as manure all had an organic origin. The 

nitrates to be found in Chile and elsewhere are 

1 The Materials of Life t by T. R. Parsons, 1930, p. 263. 
1 60 


limited in quantity, and if agriculture had to depend 
upon them alone it would soon be faced with a crisis 
through their becoming exhausted. Nowadays, 
however, nitrates are artificially manufactured from 
the nitrogen in the air a source which is, for all 
practical purposes, inexhaustible. The amount of 
nitrate produced in this way is now greatly in excess 
of that obtained from all other sources. By means 
of nitrate fertilizers the food production in a given 
area can be greatly increased. It is calculated that 
one ton of nitrogen in the form of sulphate of ammo- 
nia or nitrate of soda will produce enough food for 
thirty-four people for one year. 1 It appears, as a result 
of this calculation, that 3 spent in producing 
nitrogen fertilizers will add as much to the world's 
supply of food as 25 spent in bringing new land 
under cultivation. It follows that, at the present time, 
the production of nitrogen fertilizers is, in general, 
more profitable in relation to the world's food 
supply than the opening up of new land by means 
of railways or irrigation. This example of the applica- 
tion of science to agriculture is interesting, because 
it involves both organic and inorganic chemistry, 
together with a careful study of the complete life 
cycle in plants and animals. 

A very interesting field for scientific research has 
been opened up in connection with the control of 
pests. Most pests are either insects or fungi, and in 
regard to both kinds much valuable knowledge has 

1 Nature , October n, 1930. 

L 161 


been acquired in recent years. The importance of 
such knowledge is very little realized by the general 
public, and is not appreciated by governments 
except when it can be connected with nationalism. 
The popular imagination has, it is true, been struck 
by certain specially noteworthy instances. The 
control of malaria and yellow fever by preventing 
the mosquito from breeding has made it possible 
to render many formerly deadly regions habitable 
to white men, and in particular was necessary for 
the construction of the Panama Canal. The connec- 
tion of the bubonic plague with rats' fleas and of 
typhus with lice has also become part of the know- 
ledge of educated people. But apart from such 
isolated examples few people except specialists and 
certain government officials realize the existence of 
a vast field of research, which is important in various 
directions, but especially in relation to the world's 
food supply. 

As regards insect pests, some notion as to what has 
been done and is to be done may be derived from 
an article in Nature (January 10, 1931) called 
"Entomology and the British Empire." This gives 
an account of the work of the Third Imperial 
Entomological Conference and of the Imperial 
Institute (formerly Bureau) of Entomology. I wonder 
how many of my readers know that such bodies 
exist ; yet it appears that on the average 10 per cent, 
of the agricultural produce of the world is destroyed 
each year by insects. As the above-mentioned 



article states: "It is estimated that in the Indian 
Empire, for example, the losses in 1921 due to 
crop and forest pests alone reached the huge total 
of 136,000,000, while the death-roll among the 
population due to insect-borne diseases was stated 
to be about 1,600,000 persons annually. In Canada 
about 30,000,000 is lost every year through insect 
depradations among field and fruit crops and to 
forests. In South Africa one pest, the maize-stalk 
borer (Busseola fusca), incurred losses of about 
2,750,000 in a single year." 

There are two kinds of methods of controlling 
insect pests, namely, physico-chemical methods and 
biological methods. The former consist usually of 
fumigation. The latter, which are the more interest- 
ing scientifically, consist in the discovery of parasites 
which will prey on the destructive insects, on the 
principle expressed in the rhyme: "Big fleas have 
little fleas upon their backs to bite 'em; little fleas 
have smaller fleas, and so on ad infinitum." In general, 
in the regions where a pest is indigenous, some 
parasite exists which keeps its numbers down; but 
when the pest is accidentally introduced into a new 
country the parasite may be left behind, with the 
result that the pest effects an intensity of destruction 
quite out of proportion to what it can achieve at 
home. Modern improvements in transport have, of 
course, promoted the spread of noxious insects, and 
have therefore rendered the problem of their control 
more urgent. 



Even when there is no question of transference to 
a new habitat, a great deal can be done, in many 
cases, by artificial encouragement of useful parasites. 
Let us take an example of a pest the danger of which 
is familiar to everyone who has .ever grown tomatoes 
under glass: I mean the greenhouse white-fly. An 
account of the biologial control of this pest is 
given by Mr. E. R. Speyer in Nature, December 27, 
1930. An insect parasitic on the white-fly, called 
Encarsia formosa, was discovered at Elstree in Hert- 
fordshire in 1926, and has since then been carefully 
bred at the Cheshunt Experimental Station, whence 
it can be obtained by those who desire it. Throughout 
the county of Hertfordshire, where the area of 
cultivation under glass is about equal to that in the 
whole of the rest of Great Britain, the parasites that 
have escaped from Cheshunt have been sufficiently 
numerous to reduce the white-fly population to a 
small fraction of what it was six years ago. 

Economic entomology is a subject of great impor- 
tance, in which the United States is far ahead of the 
British Empire, though its potential usefulness in 
the latter is at least as great as in the former. Such 
problems as the extermination of the locust and the 
tse-tse fly (which is the cause of sleeping sickness) 
will probably be not beyond the resources of science 
in the near future. 

Fungi are scarcely less harmful as pests then 
insects. The study of them in England is conducted 

mainly by the Imperial Mycological Institute at 


Kew, which is supported by the Empire Marketing 
Board. An interesting article on the work of this 
Institute appeared in The Times y February 2, 1931. 
One of the most familiar and harmful of fungus pests 
is the disease of wheat called rust. The Canadian 
Government catches the spores of this plant in aero- 
planes, to discover how it is spread by the wind. The 
importance of the matter to Canada may be judged 
from the fact that in 1916, at the height of the first 
world war, black rust destroyed wheat to the value 
of about "35,000,000 in the three Prairie Provinces 
alone, and averages in Canada a destruction of about 
5,000,000 annually. Potato blight, which is another 
kind of fungus, caused the Irish famine, and thence 
led England to adopt free trade and Boston to ban 
modern literature. This particular disease has now 
been brought under control, and England is about 
to abandon free trade. The effect of the fungus on 
Boston, however, appears to be more permanent. 

A curious example of a point of contact between 
different techniques occurred in connection with the 
construction of aeroplanes, in the wooden parts of 
which the sitka spruce, which grows in British 
Columbia, is largely employed. As to this, the 
above-mentioned article in The Times states : 

A surprisingly large percentage of apparently unblemished 
timber was at one time found to break down. No sign of fungal 
infection could at first be seen ; but examination at the Institute 
under a microscope revealed the minute tentacles of a fungus. 
A Canadian woman worker took up the problem, travelled 
through the British Columbian forests, and discovered the 



source of infection on the unfelled timber. Co-operative work 
between the Forest Products Research Laboratory at Prince's 
Risborough and its opposite number in Canada showed, 
further, that the disease was accentuated by the long voyage 
through the tropics via the Panama Canal. The trouble has 
been largely eliminated by careful examination of trees before 
they are cut and by overland transport. 

These few examples may serve to show the economic 
importance of mycology, the science of fungi. 

Another direction in which biological technique is 
likely to have great importance before long is 
scientific breeding. Artificial selection has been 
applied by man for ages to animals and plants under 
domestication, and has yielded remarkable results. 
No wild plant exists of the same species as wheat. 
The cow, having long been bred for her milk- 
producing qualities, has become very different from 
any wild animal that ever existed. The racehorse 
is a highly artificial product. But these results, 
remarkable as they are, have been produced by 
methods which can scarcely be called scientific. 
Nowadays, especially by means of the Mendelian 
principles of heredity, there is hope of breeding new 
varieties of animals and plants in a less haphazard 
manner. So far, however, what has been attempted 
in this way gives scarcely more than a suggestion of 
what may be rendered possible by new discoveries 
in regard to heredity and embryology. 

The importance of animals in human life has 
greatly diminished since the industrial revolution. 

Abraham lived among his flocks and herds ; Attila's 


armies travelled on horses. In the modern world, 
animals play a very small part as a source of power, 
and in particular have become quite subordinate as 
a means of transport. They are still used for food and 
clothing, but in regard to these also they will soon 
be largely superseded. The silkworm is threatened 
by artificial silk ; real leather will soon be regarded 
as a luxury for the rich. As yet, wool is still used to 
make warm clothes, but it is likely that synthetic 
products will replace it before long. As for meat, it 
is not a necessary article of diet, and if population 
continues to increase we may assume that synthetic 
beefsteaks will be served everywhere except at the 
tables of millionaires. The cod may survive somewhat 
longer than the ox, for the sake of the vitamins in 
cod-liver oil. But already vitamin D can be generated 
in the human body by means of artificial sunlight, so 
that even the cod may not remain necessary very 
long. Animals have been good friends to man 
throughout his adolescence, after being dangerous 
enemies in his infancy. But now that man is becoming 
adult, the part played by animals in relation to man 
is ending, and their future will be mainly confined 
to Zoos. One cannot help regretting this, but it is 
part of the new ruthlessness of man intoxicated by 
scientific power. 

The need for plants will survive longer than the 
need for animals, because they are as yet essential 
to the chemical processes upon which human life 
depends. The use of vegetable products for purposes 



other than food is not very difficult to dispense with. 
It is possible already to manufacture substances 
resembling wood in so far as its useful properties are 
concerned, though as yet the process of manufacture 
is more expensive than growing, the timber. When it 
becomes cheaper, as it inevitably will, forests will 
lose their economic value. It is not probable that 
natural cotton will continue to be used in clothing, 
any more than natural silk. Synthetic rubber will 
soon replace natural rubber. Almost all such uses of 
vegetable products, it may be safely assumed, will 
cease to be important before another hundred years 
have passed. 

Food is a more serious matter. It is said to be 
already possible to manufacture from the air 
products which can be eaten and digested, though 
there are two objections to them, namely, that they 
are nauseous and expensive. Both these objections 
may in time be overcome. The problem of producing 
synthetic food is purely chemical, and there is no 
reason to regard it as insoluble. No doubt natural 
foods will taste better, and rich men, at weddings 
and feasts, will provide real peas and beans, which 
will be mentioned by the newspapers with awe. But 
in the main food will be manufactured in vast 
chemical factories. The fields will fall out of cultiva- 
tion, and agricultural labourers will be replaced by 
chemical experts. In such a world, no biological 
processes will be of interest to man except those that 

take place in himself. These will be so ouf of the 

1 63 


picture that he will tend more and more to view 
himself also as a manufactured product, and to 
minimize the share of natural growth in the produc- 
tion of human beings. He will come to value only 
what is deliberately caused by human agency, not 
what results from nature's unaided handiwork. Men 
will acquire power to alter themselves, and will 
inevitably use this power. What they will make of the 
species I do not venture to predict. 



A LIVING body, considered as a physico-chemical 
mechanism, has some very remarkable properties, 
which, so far, no machine of human construction can 
imitate. The physical parts of the mechanism, such 
as the heart's action in pumping the blood, and the 
working of muscles and bones, are less remarkable 
than the chemical portions, but have at any rate 
the merit of seldom going seriously out of order. 
The heart has to work day and night throughout the 
whole of a man's life say, seventy years. Repairs, 
if any are needed, have to be effected while it is 
working. An ordinary healthy man is much less 
often ill than the best of motor-cars, in spite of the 
fact that his engine never gets a rest. The physics 
of the human body is excellent, but is less complex 
and interesting than its chemistry. 
The most remarkable properties of a living body, 

as opposed to a lifeless one, are nourishment, growth, 
and predetermination. Nourishment consists in the 
fact that a living body, by means of various physical 
apparatus, enters into chemical contact with suit- 
able foreign bodies, and subjects them to a laboratory 
treatment which transforms as much of them as 
possible into substances chemically similar to itself 

and ejects the useless residue. Growth consists in the 


fact that, by means of cell division and nourishment 
the visible complexity of a living body can increase 
at the same time with its bulk. Predetermination, 
which is a property of both nourishment and 
growth, consists in the fact that nourishment is used 
to keep an adult body nearly unchanging in structure 
and chemical composition, while in the young 
growth reproduces, within narrow limits, the struc- 
ture of the parents. As thus denned, predetermination 
embraces reproduction and heredity. It seems, at 
first sight, an almost mystical property of living 
matter, but science is gradually coming to under- 
stand it, though as yet far from completely. 

Nourishment the transformation of food into 
various parts of the body is a process of quite 
amazing complexity. Some aspects of it, for example 
the operation of vitamins, remain obscure. But the 
essential characteristic of nourishment is compara- 
tively simple. From the saliva onwards a series of 
chemical agents act upon our food, until it reaches 
the condition in which it is fit to enter the blood- 
stream, out of which the various parts of the body 
extract what they need, again by means of various 
chemical agencies. 

Growth is seen in its most remarkable form in 
the newly fertilized ovum, which rapidly divides into 
two cells, then four, then eight, and so on, while 
continually increasing in size. Growth is capable of 
assuming morbid forms, for instance, in cancer. 

Predetermination is exhibited not only in heredity, 



but in the ordinary repairs to the wear and tear of 
the body. When hair and nails are cut, they grow 
again ; when the skin is scratched, new skin forms ; 
when the body has been wasted by illness, it reverts, 
with returning health, to very nearly what it was 
before. Within limits, a living body has the power of 
restoring itself to its previous structure when it has 
suffered some not too violent disturbance. Heredity 
is an example of the same power. There must be 
differences between human and simian spermatozoa 
corresponding to the differences between men and 
monkeys, though the microscope is not sufficiently 
powerful to reveal them. We must suppose that 
throughout the growth of the foetus a pre-existing 
complexity is becoming visible, since otherwise the 
fact of heredity is unintelligible. The development 
of the embryo is therefore, from the standpoint of 
logic, strictly analogous to the self-preservative 
quality of the adult body. And it is, of course, true 
only within similar limits. 

Technique in physiology has hitherto chiefly taken 
the form of medicine in the widest sense, i.e. the 
prevention and cure of disease and death. What has 
been accomplished in this respect is obvious from 
mortality statistics. The changes in the death-rate 
in England and Wales since 1870 have been as 
follows : 

1870 .. .. .. 22 -9 per thousand 

1929 .. .. .. 13-4 per thousand 

In other civilized countries the changes have been 


similar. At the same time, owing to another form 
of technique in physiology, the birth-rate has been 
declining, as the following figures show : 

1870 , . . . . . 35 3 per thousand 
1929 16-3 per thousand 

There are many consequences of these figures. One 
is that there is ceasing to be any natural increase 
of population in civilized countries, and that there 
may before long be an actual diminution. The other 
is that there are fewer young people and more old 
people. Those who believe that the old are wiser 
than the young will expect good results from this 
change in the balance between age and youth. On 
the other hand it will be regretted by those who feel 
that, in our rapidly changing world, the old are less 
likely than the young to understand new forces, and 
more likely than the young to overestimate decaying 
forces that are losing their importance. This, how- 
ever, may be counteracted by a prolongation of 
physiological youth. 

Reproduction operated, until recently, as blindly 
as a natural force. This, at any rate, was the case 
among Europeans, though many savage and bar- 
barous peoples employed various methods of 
artificial limitation of fertility. During the last fifty 
years reproduction among the white races has 
become increasingly deliberate instead of accidental. 
As yet, this fact has not produced the political and 
social consequences that it is bound to entail sooner 


or later; what these consequences are likely to be we 
will consider at a later stage. 

Artificial prevention of impregnation is not the 
only change brought about by modern technique in 
this respect, though so far it 'has been the most 
important. It is also possible to cause impregnation 
artificially. So far, this process has not been much 
used, but when it has been perfected it may be a 
source of very important changes in connection with 
eugenics and the family. 

If it should ever become possible to determine sex 
at will there would inevitably be an important 
readjustment of the relations between men and 
women. The first effect, one may surmise, would be 
a considerable excess of male births. This would, in 
the course of a generation, confer a scarcity value on 
women, and introduce overt or surreptitious poly- 
andry. The respect for women would be enhanced 
by their rarity, with the result that female births 
would begin to preponderate. In the end, the State 
would probably have to regulate the matter by a 
bonus for the sex which was deficient at the moment. 
These successive oscillations and administrative 
measures would have bewildering effects upon 
emotions and morals. 

It is probable that the most important application 
of physiological technique, in the long run, will be 
to embryology. Hitherto medicine and even bio- 
chemistry have aimed only at health, that is to say, 
at the perfect functioning of a body which had been 


produced by natural causes. The only method that 
has been suggested for improving the human stock 
has been that of eugenics. Heredity, where the higher 
animals and man are concerned, is as yet not subject 
to human control. A given embryo can develop into 
a healthy or a sickly individual, but if it is to be 
healthy it can be only one sort of individual, at any 
rate in so far as its heritable characteristics are 
concerned. Mutations occur, but they cannot be 
produced at will. This, however, is not likely to 
remain always the case. There has been much 
controversy as to the inheritance of acquired charac- 
ters, and it seems clear that this does not occur in 
the form in which Lamarck believed in it. No 
change in an organism is inherited unless it affects 
the chromosomes, which are the bearers of hereditary 
characters ; but a change which affects the chromo- 
somes may be inherited. 1 When the larvae of the 
fruit-fly are exposed, at an early stage, to the 
operation of X-rays, they develop into adults 
which differ noticeably from most ordinary fruit-flies. 
It may be that the changes produced by X-rays 
affect the chromosomes as well as the rest of the 
body, and that, if so, they can be inherited. Changes 
of temperature or of diet may possibly affect the 
chromosomes. Knowledge on these matters is still 
in its infancy. But since mutations occur, it is clear 
that there are agencies which alter the hereditary 
character of an organism. When these have been 

1 See Hogben, The Nature of Living Matter, p. 186. 



discovered it may be possible to apply them artifici- 
ally in such a way as to produce some intended 
result. In that case, eugenics will no longer be the 
only way of improving a breed. 

So far, no experiments have been made to test 
the effect of X-rays on the human embryo. I imagine 
that such experiments would be illegal, in common 
with many others that might make valuable addi- 
tions to our knowledge. Sooner or later, however, 
probably in Russia, such experiments will be made. 
If science continues to advance as fast as it has done 
recently, we may hope, before the end of the present 
century, to discover ways of beneficially influencing 
the human embryo, not only as regards those 
acquired characters which cannot be inherited 
because they do not affect the chromosomes, but 
also as regards the chromosomes themselves. It is 
likely that this result will only be achieved after a 
number of unsuccessful experiments leading to the 
birth of idiots or monstrosities. But would this be 
too high a price to pay for the discovery of a method 
by which, within one generation, the whole human 
race could be rendered intelligent? Perhaps by a 
suitable choice of chemicals to be injected into the 
uterus it may become possible to turn a child into 
a mathematician, a poet, a biologist, or even a 
politician, and to ensure that all his posterity 
shall do likewise unless prevented by counter- 
irritant chemicals. The sociological effect of such a 

possibility is a vast subject, which we will not 


consider at present. But it would be very rash to 
deny that some such possibility may exist in the 
near future. 

While it is rather rash to make detailed prophecies, 
it is, I think, fairly clear that in future a human 
body, from the moment of conception, will not be 
regarded merely as something which must be left 
to grow in accordance with natural forces, with no 
human interference beyond what is required for 
the preservation of health. The tendency of scientific 
technique is to cause everything to be regarded as 
not just a brute datum, but raw material for the 
carrying out of some human purpose. The child, 
and even the embryo, will come to be viewed more 
and more in this way as the mentality connected 
with scientific technique becomes more dominant. 
In this, as in all other forms of scientific power, there 
are possibilities of good and possibilities of evil. 
Science alone will not decide which is to prevail. 



AT the period when I received what was in those 
days called an education, psychology was still, to 
all intents and purposes, a branch of philosophy. 
Mental events were divided into knowing, willing, 
and feeling. Attempts were made to define percep- 
tion and sensation, and in general the subject was 
one for verbal analysis of concepts that the philoso- 
phers had rendered familiar though not intelligible. 
It is true that every textbook began with an account 
of the brain, but having given that account, it made 
no further allusion to it. It is true also that there 
existed a form of psychology which made use of 
laboratories and attempted to be very scientific. This 
form was practised especially by Wundt and his 
disciples. You showed a man a picture of a dog, and 
said: "What's that?" You then measured carefully 
how long it took him to say "dog" ; in this way much 
valuable information was amassed. But strange to 
say, in spite of the apparatus of measurement, it 
turned out that there was nothing to do with this 
valuable information except to forget it. Every new 
science is hampered by too slavish an imitation of 
the technique of some older science. No doubt 
measurement is the hall-mark of an exact science, 
and therefore scientifically-minded psychologists 


looked about for something measurable connected 
with their subject-matter. They were wrong, how- 
ever, in thinking that time intervals were the 
appropriate thing to measure: this position, as it 
turned out, is occupied by the saliva of dogs. 

Psychology as pursued everywhere in the past 
was incapable of giving practical control over 
mental processes, and never aimed at this result. 
To this general statement there is, however, one 
important exception, namely psychology as studied 
by the Society of Jesus. Much that the rest of the 
world has only recently understood was appre- 
hended by Ignatius Loyola, and impressed by 
him upon the Order which he founded. The two 
tendencies which divide progressive psychologists in 
our day, namely, psycho-analysis and behaviourism, 
are both equally exemplified in Jesuit practice. I 
think one may say on the whole that the Jesuits 
relied mainly on behavourism for their own training, 
and upon psycho-analysis for their power over 
penitents. This, however, is only a matter of degree ; 
the instructions which Loyola gave as regards 
meditations upon the Passion belong rather with the 
Freudian than with the Watsonian psychology. 

All modern scientific thinking, as we have already 
had occasion to remark, is at bottom power thinking, 
that is to say, the fundamental human impulse to 
which it appeals is the love of power, or, to express 
the matter in other terms, the desire to be the cause 
of as many and as large effects as possible. Jesuit 


thinking was, of course, power thinking in a very 
crude and direct sense, whereas in true scientific 
thought the power impulse is refined and subli- 
mated. When the Jesuits knew the technique for a 
given effect, they were no longer concerned with the 
mechanism by which that effect came about; so 
long as the right habits were formed, it was a matter 
of indifference to them whether they were habits 
in the larynx or in the adrenal glands. In this respect, 
remarkable as was their practical understanding, 
they cannot be regarded as truly scientific psycholo- 
gists. They practised an art analogous to that of the 
horse-breaker or the lion-tamer, and so long as their 
art was successful, they were content. The modern 
psychologists, on the contrary, like Hamlet, "must 
be edified by the margent." For this reason hypno- 
tism, important and singular as it is, was long 
ignored by psychologists because they did not know 
how to fit it into their scheme. For a long time 
psychologists did not seem to think that they were 
called upon to deal with those mental phenomena 
which could not be regarded as rational, such as 
dreams, hysteria, insanity, and hypnotism. Man was 
a rational animal, and the purpose of psychology was 
to make us think well of him. Strange to say, so long 
as this view persisted, psychology made no progress. 
Educational progress came from attempts to teach 
the feeble-minded, and psychological progress from 
attempts to understand lunatics. The feeble-minded 
it was admitted, were not necessarily wicked when 

i Ho 


they failed to learn, and were not therefore to be 
stimulated into intelligence by flogging. From 
experience of the feeble-minded certain persons of 
transcendent genius arrived at the inference that 
perhaps the normal intelligence also is not best 
stimulated by flogging. A similar transformation 
was brought about in the psychology of belief by 
the study of the insane. The opinions of the insane, 
it was found, are not arrived at by a series of syllog- 
isms, having major premises which are universally 
admitted ; but in the eighteenth century it was 
supposed that men of normal intelligence did arrive 
at their opinions in this way. I do not mean to say 
that men of normal intelligence supposed this about 
each other; I mean only that the theoretical 
psychologists supposed it. When Voltaire's Cacambo 
is confronted by a horde of cannibals, who proceed 
to make preparations for eating him, he makes them 
a set speech beginning "Gentlemen," in which he 
deduces syllogistically from the principles of natural 
law that they ought only to eat Jesuits, and that 
since he and Gandide are not Jesuits, it would be 
wrong to roast them. The cannibals find his speech 
very reasonable, and liberate him and Candide with 
acclamation. Voltaire here is, of course, making fun 
of the intellectualism of his age, but his age deserved 
it, so far at least as the theoretical psychologists were 
concerned. Nowadays, though this is a quite recent 
development, theoretical psychologists know as 

much about mental processes as is known by Jesuits 



and men of the world. It has been found that the 
causes of belief in waking life are in the main 
analogous to those in dreams, or during insanity, 
or under hypnotism. They are not, of course, wholly 
analogous : there is a little leaven of reason which 
makes all the difference, but reason is a cause of 
disbelief rather than of belief. "Animal faith" 
supplies what is positive, and reason only what is 
negative. Science, speaking broadly, is a tree growing 
from the soil of animal faith, but clipped by the 
shears of reason ; it is the part played by animal faith 
that modern psychology has begun to understand. 

There are in pyschology two modern techniques 
which are as yet more or less antagonistic to each 
other. There is the technique of Freud, and the 
technique of Pavlov. 

Freud's purposes were primarily therapeutic. He 
was concerned to cure people of the less extreme 
forms of mental disorder. In the course of this 
attempt he was led to a view as to the causation of 
such troubles. Freud's theory on this subject has 
proved even more important than his contribution to 
therapeutics. I think a free rendering of the general 
principles emerging from the- work of Freud and his 
followers would be more or less as follows. There are 
in human beings certain fundamental desires, usually 
in a greater or less degree unconscious, and our 
mental life is moulded so as to yield the greatest 
possible satisfaction of these desires. But wherever 
obstacles arise to their realization, the means 



adopted for overcoming these obstacles are apt to 
be somewhat foolish, in the sense that they operate 
only in the realm of phantasy and not in that of 
reality. I do not think that psycho-analysists have 
reflected very deeply upon the distinction between 
phantasy and reality. I suppose that for practical 
purposes "phantasy" is what the patient believes, 
and "reality" is what the analyst believes. Men are 
not allowed to become recognized analysts until 
they have become analysed, and in this process it 
is expected that they will adopt the official view as 
to reality. If they can convey this in turn to their 
patients, their view of reality will in the end carry 
the day, or so at least it may be hoped. Without 
going into metaphysical subtleties, one may say that 
reality is that which is generally accepted, while 
phantasy is that which is believed only by an 
individual or a group of individuals. This definition 
cannot, of course, be taken strictly, since, if it were, 
the opinion of Copernicus, for example, would have 
been phantasy in his day and reality in the time of 
Newton. There are, however, a number of opinions 
which are quite obviously based upon the individual 
desires of those who hold them, and not upon 
grounds which make a universal appeal. I was once 
visited by a man who expressed a desire to study my 
philosophy, but confessed that in the only book of 
mine which he had read there was only one statement 
that he could understand, and that was a statement 
with which he could not agree. I inquired what the 


statement was, and he replied : "It is the statement 
that Julius Caesar is dead." I naturally asked why 
he did not accept this statement. He drew himself up 
and replied rather stiffly: "Because I am Julius 
Caesar." Being alone with him in a flat, I took steps 
to reach the street as soon as possible, since it 
appeared to me probable that his opinion was not 
derived from an objective study of reality. This 
incident illustrates the difference between sane and 
insane beliefs. Sane beliefs are those inspired by 
desires which agree with the desires of other men ; 
insane beliefs are those inspired by desires which 
conflict with those of other men. We should all like 
to be Julius Caesar, but we recognize that if one is 
Julius Caesar, another is not ; therefore the man who 
thinks he is Julius Caesar annoys us, and we regard 
him as mad. We should all like to be immortal, but 
one man's immortality does not conflict with 
another's, therefore the man who thinks he is im- 
mortal is not mad. Delusions are those opinions 
which fail to make the necessary social adjustments, 
and the purpose of psycho-analysis is to produce 
the social adjustments which will cause such opinions 
to be abandoned. 

The reader, I hope, will have felt that the above 
account is in some respects inadequate. However 
hard we may try, it is scarcely possible to escape 
from the metaphysical conception of "fact." Freud 
himself, for example, when he first propounded his 

theory of the pervasiveness of sex, was viewed with 


the kind of horror that is inspired by a dangerous 
lunatic. If social adjustment is the test of sanity, he 
was insane, though when his theories came to be 
sufficiently accepted to be a source of income, he 
became sane. This is obviously absurd. Those who 
agree with Freud must contend that there is objective 
truth in his theories, not merely that they are such 
as many people can be got to accept. What remains 
of the theory of social adjustment as the test of truth 
is that beliefs inspired by purely personal desires are 
seldom true ; I mean by purely personal desires those 
that conflict with the interests of others. Take as an 
illustration the man who becomes rich on the Stock 
Exchange ; his activities are, it is true, inspired by the 
desire to become rich, which is purely personal, but 
his beliefs must be inspired by an impartial survey 
of the markets. If his beliefs are personal, he will 
lose money, and his desires will not be gratified. 
As this illustration shows, even our most personal 
desires are more likely to be gratified if our beliefs 
are imoersonal than if they are personal. This is 
the reason why science and scientific method are 
held in esteem. When I say that a belief is impersonal 
I mean that those desires which enter into its 
causation are universal human desires, and not such 
as are peculiar to the person in question. 

Psycho-analysis as a psychological theory consists 
in the discovery of the desires, usually unconscious, 
which inspire belief, especially in dreams and in 

insane delusions, but also in all the less rational parts 



of our nominally sane working life. Considered as a 
therapeutic, psycho-analysis is a technique which 
aims at substituting impersonal for personal desires 
as sources of belief wherever personal desires have 
become so dominant as to interfere with social 
behaviour. The technique of psycho-analysis where 
adults are concerned is as yet slow, cumbrous, and 
expensive. The most important applications of 
psycho-analytic theory are to education. These 
applications are as yet in an experimental stage, and 
owing to the hostility of the authorities they can 
only be made on a very small scale. l It is, however, 
already evident that moral and emotional education 
has hitherto been conducted on wrong lines, and 
has produced maladjustments which have been 
sources of cruelty, timidity, stupidity, and other 
unfortunate mental characteristics. I think it possible 
that psycho-analytic theory may be absorbed into 
something more scientific, but I do not doubt that 
something of what psycho-analysis has to suggest 
in regard to early education will be found perman- 
ently valid and of immense importance. 

The behaviourist psychology, which has its 
experimental basis mainly in the work of Pavlov, 
but has become generally known through Dr. John 
B. Watson, is at first sight very different from 
psycho-analysis and scarcely compatible with it. I 
am persuaded, however, that there is truth in both, 

1 For experimental data on this subject see Susan Isaacs, Th 
Intellectual Growth in Young Children, 1930. 
1 86 


and that it is important to arrive at a synthesis of 
the two. Freud starts from fundamental desires, such 
as the sexual impulse, which he conceives as seeking 
an outlet now in one direction, now in another. 
Behaviourism starts with an apparatus of reflexes and 
the process of conditioning. There is perhaps not 
quite so much difference as there seems to be. The 
reflex corresponds roughly to Freud's fundamental 
desires, and the process of conditioning to the search 
for different outlets. As a technique for acquiring 
power, behaviourism is, I think, superior to psycho- 
analysis : it embodies the methods which have always 
been adopted by those who train animals or drill 
soldiers ; it utilizes the force of habit, the strength 
of which has always been recognized ; and, as we 
saw when we were considering Pavlov, it makes it 
possible both to cause and to cure neurasthenia and 
hysteria. The conflicts which appear in psycho- 
analysis as emotional re-appear in behaviourism as 
conflicts between habits, or between a habit and a 
reflex. If a child were severely beaten every time it 
sneezed, it is probable that a phantasy world would 
in time build itself up in his mind around the 
conception of sneezing ; he would dream of Heaven 
as a place where the spirits of the blest sneeze 
unceasingly, or on the contrary he might think of 
Hell as a place of punishment for those who live in 
open sternutation. In this sort of way the problems 
brought to the fore by psycho-analysis can, I think, 
be dealt with on behaviourist lines. At the same time 



it should be admitted that these problems, whose 
importance is very great, would probably not have 
come to the fore but for the psycho-analytic approach. 
For the practical purposes of educational technique, 
I think it will be found that -the educator should 
behave as a psycho-analyst when he is concerned 
with matters touching powerful instincts, but as a 
behaviourist in matters which a child views as 
emotionally unimportant. For example, affection for 
parents should be viewed in the psycho-analytic 
manner, but brushing teeth in the behaviourist 

So far we have been considering those ways of 
influencing the mental ILe which proceed by mental 
means as in psycho-analysis, or by means of the 
conditioned reflex as in behaviourism. There are, 
however, other methods which may in time prove 
of immense importance. These are the methods 
which operate through physiological means, such as 
the administering of drugs. The curing of cretinism 
by means of iodine is so far the most remarkable of 
these methods. In Switzerland all salt for human 
consumption is obliged by law to be iodized, and 
this measure has been found adequate as a preven- 
tive of cretinism. The work of Cannon and others 
concerning the influence of the ductless glands upon 
the emotions has become widely known, and it is 
clear that by administering artificially the substances 
which the ductless glands provide, a profound effect 

can be produced upon temperament and character. 
1 88 


The effects of alcohol, opium, and various other 
drugs have long been familiar, but these effects are 
on the balance harmful unless the drug is taken with 
unusual moderation. There is, however no a priori 
reason why drugs should not be discovered which 
have a wholly beneficial effect. I have never myself 
observed any but good effects to flow from the 
drinking of tea, at any rate if it is China tea. It is 
possible also that psychological marvels may become 
possible through pre-natal treatment. One of the 
most eminent philosophers of our day regards his 
superiority to his brothers, perhaps humorously, 
as due to the fact that shortly before his birth his 
mother was in a carriage which rolled down the 
Simplon in an accident. I do not suggest that this 
method should be adopted in the hope of turning us 
all into philosophers, but perhaps in time we shall 
discover some more peaceable means of endowing 
the foetus with intelligence. Education used to begin 
at eight years old with the learning of the Latin 
declensions; now, under the influence of psycho- 
analysis, it begins at birth. It is to be expected that 
with the advance of experimental embryology the 
important part of education will be found to be 
pre-natal. This is already the case with fishes and 
newts, but in regard to them the scientist is not 
hampered by education authorities. 

The power of psychological technique to mould 
the mentality of the individual is still in its infancy, 

and is not yet fully realized. There can, I think, be 



little doubt that it will increase enormously in the 
near future. Science has given us, in succession, 
power over inanimate nature, power over plants 
and animals, and finally power over human beings. 
Each power involves its own kind of dangers, and 
perhaps the dangers involved in power over human 
beings are the greatest, but that is a matter that we 
will consider at a later stage. 



THE application of science to social questions is even 
more recent than its application to individual 
psychology. There are, it is true, a few directions in 
which a scientific attitude is to be found as early as 
the beginning of the nineteenth century. Malthus's 
theory of population, whether true or false, is cer- 
tainly scientific. The arguments by which he sup- 
ports it are not appeals to prejudice, but to 
population statistics and the expenses of agriculture. 
Adam Smith and Ricardo are also scientific in their 
economics. Again, I do not mean to say that the 
theories they advance are invariably true, but that 
their outlook and their type of reasoning has the 
characteristics which distinguish scientific method. 
From Malthus came Darwin, and from Darwin came 
Darwinism, which as applied to politics has turned 
out to be far from scientific. The phrase "survival of 
the fittest" proved too much for the intellects of those 
who speculate on social questions. The word "fittest" 
seems to have ethical implications, from which it 
follows that the nation, race, and class to which a 
writer belongs must necessarily be the fittest. Hence 
we arrive, under the aegis of a pseudo-Darwinian 
philosophy, at doctrines such as the Yellow Peril, 
Australia for the Australians, and the superiority of 


the Nordic race. On account of the ethical bias, one 
must view all Darwinian arguments on social 
questions with the greatest suspicion. This applies 
not only as between different races, but also as 
between different classes in the same nation. All 
Darwinian writers belong to the professional classes, 
and it is therefore an accepted maxim of Darwinian 
politics that the professional classes are biologically 
the most desirable. It follows that their sons ought to 
get a better education at the public expense than 
that which is given to the sons of wage-earners. In 
all such arguments it is impossible to see an applica- 
tion of science to practical affairs. There is merely 
a borrowing of some of the language of science for 
the purpose of making prejudice seem respectable. 

There is, however, a large amount of genuine 
experimental science in social affairs. Perhaps the 
most important set of experiments in this realm is 
that which we owe to advertisers. This material, 
valuable as it is, has not been utilized by experi- 
mental psychologists, because it belongs to a region 
remote from the Universities, and they would feel 
themselves vulgarized by contact with anything so 
gross. But anybody who is in earnest in studying 
the psychology of belief cannot do better than consult 
the great advertising firms. No test of belief is so 
searching as the financial one. When a man is 
willing to back his belief by spending money in 
accordance with it, his belief must be regarded as 

genuine. Now this is precisely the test which the 


advertiser is perpetually applying. Various people's 
soaps are recommended in various ways; some of 
these ways produce the desired result, others do not, 
or at any rate not to the same degree. Clearly the 
advertisement which causes a man's soap to be 
bought is more effective in creating belief than the 
one which does not. I do not think any experienced 
advertiser would suggest that the merits of the 
respective soaps had any share whatever in 
bringing about the result. Very large sums of money 
are paid to the men who invent good advertisements, 
and rightly so, for the power to cause large numbers 
of people to believe what you assert is a very valuable 
power. Consider its importance, for example, to 
the founders of religions. In the past they often had 
to adopt the most painful forms of publicity. How 
much pleasanter their lives would have been if they 
could have gone to an agent who would have 
purchased the respect of their disciples in recurn for 
a percentage on the ecclesiastical revenues ! 

From the technique of advertising it seems to 
follow that in the great majority of mankind any 
proposition will win acceptance if it is reiterated in 
such a way as to remain in the memory. Most of the 
things that we believe we believe because we have 
heard them affirmed; we do not remember where 
or why they were affirmed, and we are therefore 
unable to be critical even when the affirmation was 
made by a man whose income would be increased 
by its acceptance and was not backed by any 

N 193 


evidence whatever. Advertisements tend, therefore, 
as the technique becomes perfected, to be less and 
less argumentative, and more and more merely 
striking. So long as an impression is made, the 
desired result is achieved. 

Considered scientifically, advertisements have 
another great merit, which is that their effect, so 
far as is known through the receipts of the advertisers, 
are mass effects, not effects upon individuals, so 
that the data acquired are data as to mass psychology. 
For the purposes of studying society rather than 
individuals, advertisements are therefore invaluable. 
Unfortunately their purpose is practical rather than 
scientific. For scientific purposes I suggest the 
following experiment. Let two soaps, A and B, be 
manufactured, of which A is excellent and B abomin- 
able; let A be advertised by stating its chemical 
composition and by testimonials from eminent 
chemists ; let B be advertised by the bare statement 
that it is the best, accompanied by the portraits of 
famous Hollywood beauties. If man is a rational 
animal, more of A will be sold than of B. Does 
anyone, in fact, believe that this would be the 

The advantages of advertisement have come to be 
realized pretty fully by politicians, but are only 
beginning to be realized by the Churches; when 
the Churches become more fully alive to its advan- 
tages as compared with the traditional religious 
technique (which dates from before the invention 


of printing), we may hope for a great revival of 
faith. On the whole, the Soviet Government and 
the Communist religion are those which hitherto 
have best understood the use of advertisement. 
They are, it is true, somewhat hampered by the 
fact that most Russians cannot read; this obstacle, 
however, they are doing their best to remove. 

This consideration brings us naturally to the 
subject of education, which is the second great 
method of public propaganda. Education has two 
very different purposes : on the one hand it aims at 
developing the individual and giving him know- 
ledge which will be useful to him ; on the other hand 
it aims at producing citizens who will be convenient 
for the State or the Church which is educating 
them. Up to a point these two purposes coincide in 
practice : it is convenient to the State that citizens 
should be able to read, and that they should possess 
some technical skill in virtue of which they are able 
to do productive work; it is convenient that they 
should possess sufficient moral character to abstain 
from unsuccessful crime, and sufficient intelligence 
to be able to direct their own lives. But when we 
pass beyond these elementary requirements, the 
interests of the individual may often conflict with 
those of the State or the Church. This is especially 
the case in regard to credulity. To those who control 
publicity, credulity is an advantage, while to the 
individual a power of critical judgment is likely to 
be beneficial; consequently the State does not aim 



at producing a scientific habit of mind, except in 
a small minority of experts, who are well paid, and 
therefore, as a rule, supporters of the status quo. 
Among those who are not well paid credulity is 
more advantageous to the - State ; consequently 
children in school are taught to believe what they 
are told and are punished if they express disbelief. 
In this way a conditioned reflex is established, 
leading to a belief in anything said authoritatively 
by elderly persons of importance. You and I, reader, 
owe our immunity from spoliation to this beneficent 
precaution on the part of our respective Govern- 

One of the purposes of the State in education is 
certainly, on the whole, beneficent. The purpose in 
question is that of producing social coherence. In 
mediaeval Europe, as in modern China, the lack of 
of social coherence proved disastrous. It is difficult 
for large masses of men to co-operate as much as is 
necessary for their own welfare. The tendency to 
anarchy and civil war is always one to be guarded 
against, except on those rare occasions when some 
great principle is at stake which is of sufficient 
importance to make civil war worth while. For this 
reason that part of education which aims at produc- 
ing loyalty to the State is to be praised in so far as 
it is directed against internal anarchy. But in so far 
as it is directed to the perpetuation of international 
anarchy, it is bad. On the whole, at present in 

education, the form of loyalty to the State which is 


most emphasized is hostility to its enemies. No one 
was shocked when in the first half of 1914 the 
Northern Irish wished to fight against the British 
Government, but everyone was shocked when in the 
second half of the same year some of the Southern 
Irish wished not to fight against the Germans. 

Modern inventions and modern technique have 
had a powerful influence in promoting uniformity of 
opinion and making men less individual than they 
used to be. Read, for example, The Stammering 
Century by Gilbert Seldcs, and compare it with 
America at the present day. In the nineteenth 
century new sects were perpetually springing up, 
new prophets were founding communities in the 
wilderness; celibacy, polygamy, free love, all had 
their devotees, consisting not of single cranks, but 
of whole cities. A somewhat similar mental condition 
existed in Germany in the sixteenth century, in 
England in the seventeenth, and in Russia until the 
establishment of the Soviet Government. But in the 
modern world there are three great sources of 
uniformity in addition to education : these are the 
Press, the cinema, and the radio. 

The Press has become an agent of uniformity as 
a result of technical and financial causes: the larger 
the circulation of a newspaper, the higher the rate 
it can charge for its advertisements and the lower 
the cost of printing per copy. A foreign correspondent 
costs just as much whether his newspaper has a large 
or a small circulation ; therefore his relative cost is 



diminished by every increase in circulation. A news- 
paper with a large circulation can hire the most 
expensive legal talent to defend it against libel suits, 
and can often conceal from all but serious students 
its misstatements of facts. For all these reasons, of 
which advertisements are the chief, big newspapers 
tend to defeat small ones. There are, of course, small 
weeklies to please small sets of cranks or highbrows, 
and there are journals devoted to special interests, 
such as yachting or fly-fishing, but the immense 
majority of newspaper readers confine themselves 
either, as in England, to a small number of news- 
papers, or, as in America, to a small number of syndi- 
cated groups of newspapers. The difference beween 
England and America in this respect is, of course, 
due to size. In England, if Lord Rothermere and 
Lord Beaverbrcok desire anything to be known, it 
will be known ; if they desire it to be unknown, it 
will be unknown except to a few pertinacious 
busybodies. Although there are rival groups in 
the newspaper world, there are, of course, many 
matters as to which the rival groups are agreed. In 
a suburban train in the morning, one man may 
be reading the Daily Mail and another the Daily 
Express, but if by some miracle they should fall into 
conversation they would not find much divergence 
in the opinions they had imbibed or in the facts of 
which they had been informed. Thus for reasons 
which are ultimately technical and scientific, the 

newspapers have become an influence tending to 


uniformity and increasing the rarity of unusual 

Another modern invention tending towards uni- 
formity is the radio. This, of course, is more the case 
in England, where it is a Government monopoly, 
than in America, where it is free. During the General 
Strike in 1926 it afforded practically the only method 
of disseminating news. This method was utilized by 
the Government to state its own case and conceal 
that of the strikers. I was myself at the time in a 
remote village, almost the furthest from London, 
I believe, of any village in England. All the villagers, 
including myself, assembled in the Post Office every 
evening to hear the news. A pompous voice would 
announce : "It is the Home Secretary who has come 
to make a statement." I regret to say that the 
villagers all laughed, but if they had been less 
remote they would probably have been more 
respectful. In America, where the Government has 
not interfered with broadcasting, one must expect, 
if the same policy continues, that there will be a 
gradual growth of big interests analogous to the big 
newspapers, and that these will cover as large a 
proportion of the ground as does the syndicated 

But perhaps the most important of all the modern 
agents of propaganda is the cinema. Where the 
cinema is concerned, the technical reasons for large- 
scale organizations leading to almost world-wide 
uniformity are overwhelming. The costs of a good 



production are colossal, but are no less if it is ex- 
hibited seldom than if it is exhibited often and 
everywhere. The Germans and the Russians have 
their own productions, and those of the Russians are, 
of course, an important part of the Soviet Govern- 
ment's propaganda. In the rest of the civilized 
world the products of Hollywood preponderate. 
The great majority of young people in almost all 
civilized countries derive their ideas of love, of 
honour, of the way to make money, and of the 
importance of good clothes, from the evenings spent 
in seeing what Hollywood thinks good for them. 
I doubt whether all the schools and churches com- 
bined have as much influence as the cinema upon 
the opinions of the young in regard to such intimate 
matters as love and marriage and money-making. 
The producers of Hollywood are the high-priests 
of a new religion. Let us be thankful for the lofty 
purity of their sentiments. We learn from them that 
sin is always punished, and virtue is always rewarded. 
True, the reward is rather gross, and such as a more 
old-fashioned virtue might not wholly appreciate. 
But what of that? We know from the cinema that 
wealth comes to the virtuous, and from real life that 
old So-and-so has wealth. It follows that old So-and- 
so is virtuous, and that the people who say he 
exploits his employees are slanderers and trouble- 
makers. The cinema therefore plays a useful part in 
safeguarding the rich from the envy of the poor. 

It is undoubtedly an important fact in the modern 


world that almost all the pleasures of the poor can 
only be provided by men possessed of vast capital 
or by Governments. The reasons for this, as we have 
seen, are technical, but the result is that any defects 
in the status quo become known only to those who are 
willing to spend their leisure time otherwise than in 
amusement ; these are, of course, a small minority, 
and from a political point of view they are at most 
times negligible. There is, however, a certain 
instability about the whole system. In the event of 
unsuccessful war it might break down, and the 
population, which had grown accustomed to amuse- 
ments, might be driven by boredom into serious 
thought. The Russians, when deprived of vodka by 
war-time prohibition, made the Russian revolution. 
What would Western Europeans do if deprived of 
their nightly drug from Hollywood? The moral of 
this for Western European Governments is that they 
must keep on good terms with America. In the 
American imperialism of the future it may turn out 
that the producers of cinemas have been the 

> So far we have been considering the effect of 
scientific technique upon opinions, which cannot be 
regarded as a wholly cheerful subject. There are, 
however, many much better effects. Consider, for 
example, the matter of public health. In 1870 the 
death-rate in England and Wales was 22-9, and 
the infant death-rate was 160; in 1929 these had 
fallen respectively to 13-4 and 74. This change is 

ao i 


attributable almost wholly to scientific technique. 
Improvements in medicine, in hygiene, in sanitation, 
in diet, have all played their part in the diminution 
of suffering and unhappiness represented by these 
bare statistical facts. In old days it was expected 
that about half the children in a family would die 
before they grew up ; this involved pain, illness, and 
sorrow to the mother, often great suffering to the 
children, and a waste of natural resources in the 
care of children who never lived to become produc- 
tive. Until the adoption of steam transport by land 
and sea perpetual famines were inevitable, causing 
unspeakable anguish in the course of a slow destruc- 
tion of human life. And not only did people, even 
in ordinary times, die at a much greater rate than 
they do now, but they were far more often ill. 
Nowadays in the West typhus is unknown, smallpox 
very rare, tuberculosis usually curable; these three 
facts alone represent a contribution to human 
welfare which outweighs any harm that science may 
have hitherto done in the way of increasing the 
horrors of war. Whether the balance in this respect 
will continue to be on the right side in the future is, 
of course, an open question, but certainly it has been 
on the right side hitherto. 

It is the fashion among intellectuals to regard our 
age as one of weariness and discouragement; to 
them, no doubt, it is so, since they have less influence 
on affairs than they formerly had, and their whole 

outlook is more or less inappropriate to modern life. 


But to the average man, woman, and child this is 
by no means the case. Great Britain has been 
passing during the last twenty years through 
economic depression and war, yet it would seem 
that the ordinary working-class family has lately 
been better off than in the prosperous period of 
forty-five years ago. 1 

The introduction of scientific technique into social 
affairs is as yet very incomplete and haphazard. 
Take, for example, the matter of banking and credit. 
Long ago men took the first step towards scientific 
technique in this respect when they substituted 
money for barter; the next step, which did not 
begin for thousands of years after the introduction 
of money, was the substitution of banks and credit 
for cash. Credit has become an immense force 
controlling the economic life of all advanced com- 
munities, but although its principles are fairly well 
understood by experts, political difficulties stand in 
the way of the right utilization of these principles, 
and the barbaric practice of depending upon actual 
gold is still a cause of much misery. In this, as 
in other respects, economic forces and technical 
requirements demand world-wide organization, but 
the forces of nationalism present obstacles, and cause 
people to endure avoidable sufferings patiently 
because of the pleasure they derive from the thought 
that foreigners are suffering even more. 

1 In London, weekly earnings in 1928 were 30 per cent, above those 
of 1886 after taking account of the rise in the cost of living. See Forty 
Tears of Change (P. S. King, 1930), p. 130. 



The social effect of modern scientific technique is, 
in practically all directions, to demand an increase 
both in the size and intensity of organization. When 
I speak of the intensity of organization I mean the 
proportion of a man's activities that is governed by 
the fact of his belonging to some social unit. The 
primitive peasant may be almost entirely self- 
directed ; he produces his own food, buys very little, 
and does not send his children to school. The 
modern man, even if he happens to be an agricul- 
turist, produces only a small proportion of what he 
eats ; if he grows wheat, for example, he probably 
sells the whole of his crop and buys his bread from 
the baker like any other man ; even if he does not 
do this, he has to buy most of the rest of his food. 
In his buying and selling he depends upon immense 
organizations which are usually international; his 
reading is provided by the great newspapers, his 
amusements by Hollywood, the education of his 
children by the State, his capital, in part at least, 
by a bank, his political opinions by his Party, his 
safety and many of his amenities by the Government 
to which he pays taxes. Thus in all his most important 
activities he has ceased to be a separate unit and 
has become dependent upon some social organiza- 
tion. As scientific technique advances, the most 
profitable size for most organizations increases. In 
a great many respects national boundaries have 
become a technical absurdity, and further advance 

demands that they should be ignored. Unfortunately 


nationalism is immensely strong, and the increasing 
power of propaganda which scientific technique has 
put into the hands of national States is being used to 
strengthen this anarchic force. Until this state of 
affairs is amended, scientific technique will not be 
able to achieve the results of which it is capable in 
the way of promoting human welfare. 





THE scientific society with which the following 
chapters are to be concerned is, in the main, a thing 
of the future, although various of its characteristics 
are adumbrated in various States at the present day. 
The scientific society, as I conceive it, is one which 
employs the best scientific technique in production, 
in education, and in propaganda. But in addition 
to this, it has a characteristic which distinguishes 
it from the societies of the past, which have grown 
up by natural causes, without much conscious 
planning as regards their collective purpose and 
structure. No society can be regarded as fully scien- 
tific unless it has been created deliberately with a 
certain structure in order to fulfill certain purposes. 
This is, of course, a matter of degree. Empires, in so 
far as they depend upon conquest and are not mere 
national States, have been created, it may be said, 
in order to confer glory upon their emperors. But 
this has been in the past merely a question of the 
political government, and has made very little 
difference to the daily life of the people. There are, 
it is true, semi-mythical lawgivers of the remote past, 
such as Zoroaster, Lycurgus, and Moses, who are 
supposed to have impressed their character upon the 
societies that accepted their authority. In all such 

o 209 


cases, however, the laws attributed to them must 
have been, in the main, pre-existing customs. To 
take an instance concerning which more is known: 
the Arabs who accepted the authority of Mahomet 
made hardly more change in Cheir habits than did 
Americans when they accepted the Volstead Act. 
When Mahomet's sceptical relatives decided to 
throw in their lot with him, they did so because of 
the smallness of the change that he demanded. 

As we approach modern times, the changes 
deliberately brought about in social structure become 
greater. This is especially the case where revolutions 
are concerned. The American Revolution and the 
French Revolution deliberately created certain 
societies with certain characteristics, but in the main 
these characteristics were political, and their effects 
in other directions formed no part of the primary 
intentions of the revolutionaries. But scientific 
technique has so enormously increased the power of 
governments that it has now become possible to 
produce much more profound and intimate changes 
in social structure than any that were contemplated 
by Jefferson or Robespierre. Science first taught us 
to create machines; it is now teaching us by Men- 
delian breeding and experimental embryology to 
create new plants and animals. There can be little 
doubt that similar methods will before long give us 
power, within wide limits, to create new human 
individuals differing in predetermined ways from 

the individuals produced by unaided nature. And 


by means of psychological and economic technique 
it is becoming possible to create societies as artificial 
as the steam engine, and as different from anything 
that would grow up of its own accord without 
deliberate intention on the part of human agents. 

Such artificial societies will, of course, until social 
science is much more perfected than it is at present, 
have many unintended characteristics, even if their 
creators succeed in giving them all the characteristics 
that were intended. The unintended characteristics 
may easily prove more important than those that 
were foreseen, and may cause the artificially con- 
structed societies to break down in one way or 
another. But I do not think it is open to doubt that 
the artificial creation of societies will continue and 
increase so long as scientific technique persists. The 
pleasure in planned construction is one of the most 
powerful motives in men who combine intelligence 
with energy ; whatever can be constructed according 
to a plan, such men will endeavour to construct. So 
long as the technique for creating a new type of 
society exists there will be men seeking to employ 
this technique. They are likely to suppose themselves 
actuated by some idealistic motive, and it is possible 
that such motives may play a part in determining 
what sort of society they shall aim at creating. But 
the desire to create is not itself idealistic, since it is 
a form of the love of power, and while the power to 
create exists there will be men desirous of using this 
power even if unaided nature would produce a 



better result than any that can be brought about by 
deliberate intention. 

During the present century there have been three 
Powers which illustrate the possibility of artificial 
creation. The three Powers. in question are Japan 
and Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany. 

Modern Japan was until its defeat almost exactly 
what it was intended to be by the men who made the 
revolution in 1867. This is one of the most remarkable 
political achievements in all history, in spite of the 
fact that the purpose which inspired the innovators 
was simple and such as every Japanese might be ex- 
pected to sympathize with. The purpose was, in fact, 
nothing more recondite than the preservation of 
national independence. China had been found impo- 
tent to resist the Western Powers, and Japan appeared 
to be in like case. Certain Japanese statesmen per- 
ceived that the military and naval power of the 
Western nations rested upon Western education and 
Western industrial technique. They decided to intro- 
duce both, with such modifications as Japanese his- 
tory and circumstances demanded. But whereas in- 
dustrialism had grown up in the West with very little 
assistance from the State, and scientific knowledge 
had developed very far before the Western Govern- 
ments undertook the task of universal education, 
Japan, being pressed for time, was obliged to 
impose education and science and industrialism by 
governmental pressure. It was clearly impossible to 
effect so great a change in the mentality of the 



average citizen by mere appeals to reason and 
self-interest. The reformers, therefore, skilfully en- 
listed the divine person of the Mikado and the divine 
authority of the Shinto religion on the side of modern 
science. The Mikado had been for centuries obscure 
and unimportant, but he had already been restored 
to power once before in the year A.D. 645, so that 
there was a precedent of respectable antiquity for 
what was being done. The Shinto religion, unlike 
Buddhism, was indigenous to Japan, but had been 
for ages thrust into the background by the foreign 
religion imported from China and Korea. The 
reformers very wisely decided that in introducing 
Christian military technique they would not attempt 
to introduce the theology with which it had hitherto 
been correlated, but would have a nationalistic 
theology of their own. Shinto, as taught by the State 
in Japan, was a powerful weapon of nationalism; 
its gods are Japanese, and its cosmogony teaches that 
Japan was created sooner than other countries. The 
Mikado is descended from the Sun Goddess, and is 
therefore superior to the mere earthly rulers of other 
States. Shinto, as taught after 1868, is so different 
from the old indigenous beliefs that competent 
students have described it as a new religion. 1 As a 
result of this skilful combination of enlightened tech- 
nique with unenlightened theology, the Japanese for 
a time succeeded not merely in repelling the Western 

1 See Professor B. H. Chamberlain, The Invention of a New Religion, 
published by the Rationalist Press Association. 



menace, but in becoming one of the Great Powers 
and achieving the third place on the sea. 

Japan has shown extraordinary sagacity in the 
adaptation of science to political needs. Science as 
an intellectual force is sceptical and somewhat 
destructive of social coherence, while as a technical 
force it has precisely the opposite qualities. The 
technical developments due to science have increased 
the size and intensity of organizations, and have 
more particularly greatly augmented the power of 
Governments. Governments have therefore good 
reason to be friendly to science, so long as it can 
be kept from dangerous and subversive speculations. 
In the main the men of science have shown them- 
selves amenable. The State favoured one set of super- 
stitions in Japan, and another in the West, but the 
scientists both of Japan and of the West have, with 
some exceptions, been willing to acquiesce in 
governmental doctrines, because most of them are 
citizens first, and servants of truth only in the 
second place. 

The Nazi experiment, like that of the Japanese, 
was brought to an end by defeat in war. In each 
case, it is a purely speculative question how the 
national psychology would have developed if no 
foreign influences had intervened. It was possible 
to observe, especially in Japan, a certain nervous 
strain, particularly in the urban population, attri- 
butable to the sudden change of habits, and pro- 
ducing a tendency to hysteria. In both countries, 



it was impossible to keep wage-earners acquiescent 
except by foreign conquest; therefore in the long 
run the regime was faced with either internal revo- 
lution or the hostility of the rest of the world. 
Neither system, therefore, had the stability which 
a legislator would desire to secure by means of a 
scientific construction. 

The attempt at scientific construction which is 
being made by the Soviet Government is more 
ambitious than that which was carried through 
by the Japanese innovators in 1867; it aims at a 
much greater change in social institutions, and 
at the creation of a society far more different from 
anything previously known than is that of Japan. 
The experiment is still in progress, and only a rash 
man would venture to predict whether it will 
succeed or fail; the attitude both of friends and 
enemies towards it has been singularly unscientific. 
For my part, I am not anxious to appraise the 
good or evil in the Soviet system, but merely to 
point out those elements of deliberate planning 
which make it so far the most complete example 
of a scientific society. In the first place, all the major 
factors of production and distribution are controlled 
by the State; in the second place, all education 
is designed to stimulate activity in support of the 
official experiment; in the third place, the State 
does what it can to substitute its religion for the 
various traditional beliefs which have existed within 
the territory of the U.S.S.R. ; in the fourth place, 


literature and the Press are controlled by the 
Government, and are such as are thought likely 
to help it in its constructive purposes; in the fifth 
place, the family, in so far as it represents a loyalty 
which competes with loyalty to the State, is being 
gradually weakened ; in the sixth place, the Govern- 
ment, so far as war and external policy permit, is 
bending the whole constructive energies of the 
nation to the realization of a certain economic 
balance and productive efficiency, by means of 
which it is hoped that a sufficient degree of material 
comfort will be secured for everyone. In every 
other society of the world there is enormously 
less central direction than under the Soviet Govern- 
ment. It is true that during the two world wars 
the energies of the nations were, to a considerable 
extent, centrally organized, but everyone knew 
that this was temporary, and even at its height 
the organization was not so all-pervasive as it is 
in Russia. In that country there is no reason to 
expect the intensity of governmental control to 
diminish, since the central organization of a vast 
nation's activities is too attractive to the organizers 
to be abandoned readily. 

The Russian experiment may succeed or may 
fail, but even if it fails, it will be followed by others 
which will share its most interesting characteristic, 
namely, the unitary direction of a whole nation's 
activities. This was impossible in earlier days, since 

it depends upon the technique of propaganda, i.e. 


upon universal education, newspapers, the cinema, 
and the wireless. The State had already been 
strengthened by railways and the telegraph, which 
made possible the rapid transmission of news and 
concentration of troops. In addition to modern 
methods of propaganda, modern methods of war- 
fare have strengthened the State as against dis- 
contented elements; aeroplanes and atomic bombs 
have made revolt difficult unless it obtains the 
support of aeronauts and chemists. Any prudent 
Government will favour these two classes and take 
pains to secure their loyalty. As the example of 
Russia has shown, it is now possible for men of 
energy and intelligence, if they once become pos- 
sessed of the governmental machine, to retain power 
even though at first they may have to face the 
opposition of the majority of the population. We 
must therefore increasingly expect to see govern- 
ment falling into the hands of oligarchies, not of 
birth but of opinion. In countries long accustomed 
to democracy, the empire of these oligarchies may 
be concealed behind democratic forms, as was that 
of Augustus in Rome, but elsewhere their rule will 
be undisguised. If there is to be scientific experi- 
mentation in the construction of new kinds of 
societies, the rule of an oligarchy of opinion is 
essential. It may be expected that there will be 
conflicts between different oligarchies, but that 
ultimately some one oligarchy will acquire world 

dominion, and will produce a world-wide organiza- 



tion as complete and elaborate as that now existing 
in the U.S.S.R. 

Such a state of affairs will have both merits and 
demerits; more important than either, however, is 
the fact that nothing less will enable a society 
imbued with scientific technique to survive. Scien- 
tific technique demands organization, and the more 
it becomes perfected, the larger are the organizations 
that it demands. Quite apart from war, an inter- 
national organization of credit and banking is 
necessary to the prosperity not only of some coun- 
tries, but of all. The international organization of 
industrial production is being rendered necessary 
by the efficiency of modern methods. Modern indus- 
trial plant can easily supply, in many directions, 
much more than the total needs of the world. The 
result of this, which should be wealth, is in fact 
poverty, owing to competition and war. In the 
absence of competition, the immensely enhanced 
productivity of labour would enable men to arrive 
at a just compromise between leisure and goods : 
they could choose whether they would work six 
hours a day and be rich, or four hours a day and 
enjoy only moderate comfort. The advantages of 
world-wide organization, both in preventing the 
waste of economic competition and in removing 
the danger of war, are so great as to be becoming 
an essential condition for the survival of societies 

possessing scientific technique. This argument is 


overwhelming in comparison with all counter- 
arguments, and renders almost unimportant the 
question whether life in an organized world State 
will be more or less satisfactory than life at the 
present day. For it is only in the direction of an 
organized world State that the human race can 
develop unless it abandons scientific technique, 
and it will not do this except as the result of a 
cataclysm so severe as to lower the whole level of 

The advantages to be derived from an organized 
world State are great and obvious. There will be, in 
the first place, security against war and a saving of 
almost the whole effort and expense now devoted to 
competitive armaments: there will be, one must 
suppose, a single highly efficient fighting machine, 
employing mainly aeroplanes and chemical methods 
of warfare, which will be quite obviously irresistible, 
and will therefore not be resisted. 1 The central 
government may be changed from time to time by 
a palace revolution, but this will only alter the 
personnel of the figure-heads, not the essential 
organization of government. The central govern- 
ment will, of course, forbid the propaganda of 
nationalism, by means of which at present anarchy 
is maintained, and will put in its place a propaganda 
of loyalty to the world State. It follows that such 

' Cf. The Problem of the Twentieth Century: a Study in International 
Relationships, by David Davies, 1930. 



an organization, if it can subsist for a generation, 
will be stable. The gain from an economic point 
of view will be enormous : there will be no waste 
in competitive production, no uncertainty as to 
employment, no poverty, no sudden alternations 
of good and bad times; every man willing to work 
will be kept in comfort, and every man unwilling 
to work will be kept in prison. When owing to any 
circumstances the work upon which a man has 
hitherto been employed is no longer required, he 
will be taught some new kind of work, and will be 
adequately maintained while he is learning his new 
trade. Economic motives will be employed to regu- 
late population, which will probably be kept 
stationary. Almost all that is tragic in human life 
will be eliminated, and even death will seldom come 
before old age. 

Whether men will be happy in this Paradise I do 
not know. Perhaps biochemistry will show us how 
to make any man happy, provided he has the 
necessaries of life; perhaps dangerous sports will 
be organized for those whom boredom would other- 
wise turn into anarchists; perhaps sport will take 
over the cruelty which will have been banished 
from politics; perhaps football will be replaced by 
play battles in the air in which death will be the 
penalty of defeat. It may be that so long as men 
are allowed to seek death, they will not mind having 
to seek it in a trivial cause: to fall through the 



air before a million spectators may come to be 
thought a glorious death even if it has no purpose 
but the amusement of a holiday crowd. It may be 
that in some such way a safety valve can be provided 
for the anarchic and violent forces in human nature ; 
or again, it may be that by wise education and suit- 
able diet men may be cured of all their unruly 
impulses, and all life may become as quiet as a 
Sunday school. 

There will, of course, be a universal language, 
which will be either Esperanto or pidgin-English. 
The literature of the past will for the most part 
not be translated into this language, since its out- 
look and emotional background will be considered 
unsettling: serious students of history will be able 
to obtain a permit from the Government to study 
such works as Hamlet and Othello, but the general 
public will be forbidden access to them on the 
ground that they glorify private murder; boys will 
not be allowed to read books about pirates or 
Red Indians; love themes will be discouraged on 
the ground that love, being anarchic, is silly, if not 
wicked. All this will make life very pleasant for the 

Science increases our power to do both good and 
harm, and therefore enhances the need for restrain- 
ing destructive impulses. If a scientific world is to 
survive, it is therefore necessary that men should 
become tamer than they have been. The splendid 



criminal must no longer be an ideal, and submissive- 
ness must be more admired than it has been in the 
past. In all this there will be both gain and loss, and 
it is not within human power to strike a balance 
between the two. 



THE nineteenth century suffered from a curious 
division between its political ideas and its economic 
practice. In politics it carried out the Liberal ideas 
of Locke and Rousseau, which were adapted to a 
society of small peasant proprietors. Its watchwords 
were Liberty and Equality, but meantime it was 
inventing the technique which is leading the twentieth 
century to destroy liberty and to replace equality by 
new forms of oligarchy. The prevalence of Liberal 
thought has been in some ways a misfortune, since 
it has prevented men of large vision from thinking 
out in an impersonal manner the problems raised 
by industrialism. Socialism and Communism, it is 
true, are essentially industrial creeds, but their 
outlook is so much dominated by the class war that 
they have little leisure to give to anything but the 
means of achieving political victory. Traditional 
morality gives very little help in the modern world. 
A rich man may plunge millions into destitution by 
some act which not even the severest Catholic 
confessor would consider sinful, while he will need 
absolution for a trivial sexual aberration which, at 
the worst, has wasted an hour that might have been 
more usefully employed. There is need of a new 
doctrine on the subject of my duty to rov neighbour. 



It is not only traditional religious teaching that 
fails to give adequate guidance on this subject, but 
also the teaching of nineteenth-century Liberalism. 
Take, for example, such a book as Mill on Liberty. 
Mill maintains that while the State has a right to 
interfere with those of my actions that have serious 
consequences to others, it should leave me free where 
the effects of my actions are mainly confined to 
myself. Such a principle, however, in the modern 
world, leaves hardly any scope for individual 
freedom. As society becomes more organic, the 
effects of men upon each other become more and 
more numerous and important, so that there remains 
hardly anything in regard to which Mill's defence 
of liberty is applicable. Take, for example, freedom 
of speech and of the Press. It is clear that a society 
that permits these is thereby precluded from various 
achievements which are possible to a society that 
forbids them. In time of war this is obvious to 
everybody, because in war-time the national purpose 
is simple, and the causation involved is obvious. 
Hitherto it has not been customary for a nation in 
peace-time to have any national purpose except the 
preservation of its territory and its constitution. A 
government which, like that of Soviet Russia, has 
a purpose in peace-time as ardent and definite as 
that of other nations in war-time, is compelled to 
curtail freedom of speech and of the Press as much 
while it is at peace as other nations do when they 
are at war. 


The diminution of individual liberty which has 
been taking place during the last thirty-five years 
is likely to continue, since it has two continuing 
causes. On the one hand, modern technique makes 
society more organic; on the other hand, modern 
sociology makes men more and more aware of the 
causal laws in virtue of which one man's acts are 
useful or harmful to another man. If we are to 
justify any particular form of individual liberty in 
the scientific society of the future, we shall have to 
do it on the ground that that form of liberty is for 
the good of society as a whole, but not in most 
cases on the ground that the acts concerned affect 
nobody but the agent. 

Let us take some examples of traditional prin- 
ciples which appear no longer defensible. The first 
example that occurs to me is as regards the invest- 
ment of capital. At present, within wide limits, any 
man who has money to invest may invest it as he 
chooses. This freedom was defended during the 
heyday of laissezfaire on the ground that the business 
which paid best was always the most socially useful. 
Few men nowadays would dare to maintain such a 
doctrine. Nevertheless the old freedom persists. It 
is clear that in a scientific society capital would be 
invested where its social utility is greatest, not where 
it earns the highest rate of profits. The rate of 
profits earned depends often upon quite accidental 
circumstances. Take, for example, the competition 
between railways and buses : railways have to pay 

p 225 


for their permanent way, while buses do not. It 
may therefore happen that to the investor railways 
are unprofitable and buses profitable, even when 
the exact opposite is the case for the community 
considered as a whole. Or again, consider the profits 
of those who had the good sense to acquire property 
in the neighbourhood of Millbank Prison shortly 
before it was turned into the Tate Gallery. The 
expenditure which brought these men their profits 
was public expenditure, and their profits afford no 
evidence that they had invested their money in a 
manner advantageous to the public. To take a more 
important illustration: consider the immense sums 
of money that are spent on advertising. It cannot 
possibly be maintained that these bring any but the 
most meagre return to the community. The principle 
of permitting each capitalist to invest his money as 
he chooses is not, therefore, socially defensible. 

Take again such a matter as housing. In England 
individualism leads most families to prefer a small 
house of their own rather than an apartment in a 
large house. The result is that the suburbs of London 
are spread out through mile after mile of dreariness, 
to the immense detriment of the women and children. 
Each housewife cooks an abominable dinner at great 
expenditure of labour for an infuriated husband. 
The children, when they come home from school, 
or while they are too young to go to school, find 
themselves cooped up in small stuffy premises where 

either they are a nuisance to their parents or their 


parents are a nuisance to them. In a more sensible 
community, each family would occupy a part of an 
immense building with a courtyard in the middle; 
there would be no individual cooking, but only 
communal meals. Children, as soon as they were 
no longer at the breast, would spend their day in 
large airy halls under the care of women possessing 
the knowledge, the training, and the temperament 
required for making young children happy. The 
wives, who at present drudge all day doing wasteful 
work badly, would be set free to earn their living 
outside the home. The benefit of such a system to the 
mothers, and still more to the children, would be 
incalculable. At the Rachel Macmillan nursery 
school it was found that about 90 per cent, of the 
children had rickets when they first came, and 
almost all were cured at the end of the first year in 
the school. In the ordinary home the necessary 
modicum of light and air and good food cannot be 
provided, whereas all these things can be provided 
quite cheaply if they are provided for many children 
at once. The freedom to cause one's children to 
grow up stunted and crippled on the ground that 
one is too fond of them to part with them is a 
freedom which is certainly not in the public interest. 
Take again the question of work, both the kind of 
work and the method of performing it. At present 
young people choose their own trade or profession, 
usually because at the moment of their choice it 
seems to afford a good opening. A well-informed 



person possessed of foresight might know that the 
particular line in question was going to be much 
less profitable a few years hence. In such a case 
some public guidance to the young might prove 
extremely useful. And as regards technical methods, 
it is seldom in the public interest that an antiquated 
or wasteful technique should be allowed to persist 
when a more economical technique is known. At 
present, owing to the irrational character of the 
capitalist system, the interest of the individual wage- 
earner is very often opposed to the interest of the 
community, since economical methods may cause 
him to lose his job. This is due to the survival of 
capitalistic principles in a society which has grown 
so organic that it ought not to tolerate them. It is 
obvious that in a well-organized community it should 
be impossible for a large body of individuals to 
profit by preserving an inefficient technique. It is 
clear that the use of the most efficient technique 
should be enforced, and no wage-earner should be 
allowed to suffer by its enforcement. 

I come now to a matter which touches the indi- 
vidual more intimately : I mean the question of 
propagation. It h? hitherto been considered that 
any man and woman not within the prohibited 
degrees have a right to marry, and having married 
have a right, if not a duty, to have as many children 
as nature may decree. This is a right which the 
scientific society of the future is not likely to tolerate. 

In any given state of industrial and agricultural 


technique there is an optimum density of population 
which ensures a greater degree of material well- 
being than would result from either an increase or 
a diminution of numbers. As a general rule, except 
in new countries, the density of population has been 
beyond this optimum, though perhaps France, in 
recent decades, has been an exception. Except 
where there is property to be inherited, the member 
of a small family suffers almost as much from over- 
population as the member of a large family. Those 
who cause overpopulation are therefore doing an 
injury not only to their own children, but to the 
community. It may therefore be assumed that 
society will discourage them if necessary, as soon as 
religious prejudices no longer stand in the way of 
such action. The same question will arise in a more 
dangerous form as between different nations and 
different races. If a nation finds that it is losing 
military superiority through a lower birth-rate than 
that of a rival, it may attempt, as has already been 
done in such cases, to stimulate its own birth-rate ; 
but when this proves ineffective, as it probably will, 
there will be a tendency to demand a limitation in 
the birth-rate of the rival nation. An international 
government, if it ever comes into being, will have 
to take account of such matters, and just as there is 
at present a quota of national immigrants into the 
United States, so in future there will be a quota of 
national immigrants into the world. Children in 
excess of the licensed figure will presumably be 



subjected to infanticide. This would be less cruel 
than the present method, which is to kill them by 
war or starvation. I am, however, only prophesying 
a certain future, not advocating it. 

Quality as well as quantity of population is likely 
to become a matter for public regulation. Already 
in many States of America it is permissible to 
sterilize the mentally defective, and a similar pro- 
posal in England is in the domain of practical 
politics. This is only the first step. As time goes on 
we may expect a greater and greater percentage 
of the population to be regarded as mentally defective 
from the point of view of parenthood. However that 
may be, it is clear that the parents who have a child 
when there is every likelihood of its being mentally 
defective are doing a wrong both to the child and 
to the community. No defensible principle of liberty 
therefore stands in the way of preventing them from 
such behaviour. 

In suggesting any curtailment of liberty there are 
always two quite distinct questions to be considered. 
The first is whether such a curtailment would be in 
the public interest if it were wisely carried out, and 
the second is whether it will be in the public interest 
when it is carried out with a certain measure of 
ignorance and perversity. These two questions are 
in theory quite distinct, but from the point of view 
of the government the second question does not 
exist, since every government believes itself entirely 

free from both ignorance and perversity. Every 


government, consequently, in so far as it is not 
restrained by traditional prejudices, will advocate 
more interference with liberty than is wise. When, 
therefore, as in this chapter, we are considering what 
interferences with liberty might be theoretically 
justified, we must hesitate to draw the conclusion 
that they should be advocated in practice. I think 
it probable, however, that almost all interferences 
with liberty for which there is a theoretical justifica- 
tion will, in time, be carried out in practice, because 
scientific technique is gradually making governments 
so strong that they need not consider outside 
opinion. The result of this will be that governments 
will be able to interfere with individual liberty 
wherever in their opinion there is a sound reason 
for so doing, and for the reason just given, this 
will be much more often than it should be. For 
this reason scientific technique is likely to lead to a 
governmental tyranny which may in time prove 

Equality, like liberty, is difficult to reconcile with 
scientific technique, since this involves a great 
apparatus of experts and officials inspiring and 
controlling vast organizations. Democratic forms may 
be preserved in politics, but they will not have as 
much reality as in a community of small peasant 
proprietors. Officials unavoidably have power. And 
where many vital questions are so technical that the 
ordinary man cannot hope to understand them, 

experts must inevitably acquire a considerable 



measure of control. Take the question of currency 
and credit as an example. William Jennings Bryan, 
it is true, made currency an electoral issue in 1896, 
but the men who voted for him were men who would 
have voted for him whatever issue he had selected. 
At the present time, according to many experts who 
command respect, incalculable misery is being 
caused by a wrong handling of the question of 
currency and credit, but it is impossible to submit 
this question to the electorate except in some 
passionate and unscientific form; the only way in 
which anything can be done is to convince the 
officials who control the great central banks. So long 
as these men act honestly and in accordance with 
tradition, the community cannot control them, since 
if they are mistaken very few people will know it. 
To take a less important illustration : everyone who 
has ever compared British and American methods 
of handling goods traffic on railways knows that the 
American methods are infinitely superior. There are 
no private trucks, and the trucks of the railways are 
of standard size capable of carrying forty tons. In 
England everything is higgledy-piggledy and un- 
systematic, and the use of private trucks causes 
great waste. If this were put right, freights could 
be reduced and consumers would benefit, but this 
is not a matter upon which elections can be fought, 
since there would be no obvious gain either to 
railway companies or to railway workers. If a more 

uniform system is ever imposed, it will be done not 


as a result of a democratic demand, but by govern- 
ment officials. 

The scientific society will be just as oligarchic 
under socialism or communism as under capitalism, 
for even where the forms of democracy exist they 
cannot supply the ordinary voter with the requisite 
knowledge, nor enable him to be on the spot at the 
crucial moment. The men who understand the 
complicated mechanism of a modern community and 
who have the habit of initiative and decision must 
inevitably control the course of events to a very great 
extent. Perhaps this is even more true in a socialistic 
State than in any other, for in a socialistic State 
economic and political power are concentrated in 
the same hands, and the national organization of 
the economic life is more complete than in a State 
where private enterprise exists. Moreover, a social- 
istic State is likely to have more perfect control than 
any other over the organs of publicity and 
propaganda, so that it will have more power of 
causing men to know what it wishes known, and 
not to know what it wishes unknown. Equality, 
therefore, like liberty, is, I fear, no more than a 
nineteenth-century dream. The world of the future 
will contain a governing class, probably not heredi- 
tary, but more analogous to the government of the 
Catholic Church. And this governing class, as it 
acquires increasing knowledge and confidence, will 
interfere more and more with the life of the individual, 
and will learn more and more the technique of 



causing this interference to be tolerated. It may be 
assumed that their purposes will be excellent, and 
their conduct honourable ; it may be assumed that 
they will be well informed and industrious ; but it 
cannot, I think, be assumed that they will abstain 
from the exercise of power merely on the ground that 
individual initiative is a good thing, or- on the 
ground that an oligarchy is unlikely to consider the 
true interests of its slaves, for men capable of such 
self-restraint will not rise to positions of power 
which, except when they are hereditary, are attained 
only by those who are energetic and untroubled by 
doubt. What sort of a world will such a governing, 
class produce? In the following chapters I shall 
hazard a guess at some part of the answer. 


WHEN I speak of scientific government I ought, 
perhaps, to explain what I mean by the term. I do 
not mean simply a government composed of men of 
science. There were many men of science in the 
government of Napoleon, including Laplace, who, 
however, proved so incompetent that he had to be 
dismissed in a very short time. I should not consider 
Napoleon's government scientific while it contained 
Laplace, or unscientific when it lost him. I should 
define a government as in a greater or less degree 
scientific in proportion as it can produce 

results : the greater the number of results-lllSlTit 
can both intend and produce, the rnnrp 

itjs. The framers of the American Constitution, for 
example, were scientific in safeguarding private 
property, but unscientific ifTattempting to introduce 
a 'system of indirect election for the Presidency. 
The governments which made the first world war 
werenunscichtific, since they all fell during the course 
of it. There was, however, one exception, namely 
Serbia, which was completely scientific, as the result 
of the War was exactly what was intended by the 
Serbian government which was in power at the time 
of the Serajevo murders. 

Owing to the increase of knowledge, it is possible 



for governments nowadays to achieve many more 
intended results than were possible in former times, 
and it is likely that before very long results which 
even now are impossible will become possible. The 
total abolition of poverty, for example, is at the 
present moment technically possible; that is to say, 
known methods of production, if wisely organized, 
would suffice to produce enough goods to keep the 
whole population of the globe in tolerable comfort. 
But although this is technically possible, it is not yet 
psychologically possible. International competition, 
class antagonisms, and the anarchic system of 
private enterprise stand in the way, and to remove 
these obstacles is no light task. The diminution of 
disease is a purpose which in Western nations 
encounters fewer obstacles and has therefore been 
more successfully pursued, but to this purpose also 
there are great obstacles throughout Asia. Eugenics, 
except in the form of sterilization of the feeble- 
minded, is not yet practical politics, but may be- 
come so within the next fifty years. As we have 
already seen, it may be superseded, when embryology 
is more advanced, by direct methods of operating 
upon the foetus. 

All these are things which, as soon as they become 
clearly feasible, will make a great appeal to energetic 
and practical idealists. Most idealists are a mixture 
of two types, which we may call respectively the 
dreamer and the manipulator. The pure dreamer is 
a lunatic, the pure manipulator is a man who cares 



only for personal power, but the idealist lives in an 
intermediate position between these two extremes. 
Sometimes the dreamer preponderates, sometimes 
the manipulator. William Morris found pleasure in 
dreaming of "News from Nowhere" ; Lenin found 
no satisfaction until he could clothe his ideas in a 
garment of reality. Both 
worjd^different from thatjn which they find them- 
selves, butthe^jjianijDu^^ 
create it, wr^ile^hejrjsajjie^ 

_fkJitasy. It is the manipulative type of 
idealist who will create the scientific society. Of such 
men, in our own day, Lenin is the archetype. The 
manipulative idealist differs from thg_ man of merely 
pexsonal ambition by the fact that he desires not 
only_ccrtain things for himself, but a certain kind of 
society. Cromwell would not have been content to 
have been Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in succession 
to Strafford, or Archbishop of Canterbury in 
succession to Laud. It was essential to his happiness 
that England should be a certain sort of country, 
not merely that he should be prominent in it. It is 
this element of impersonal^des^irejyhkh distinguishes 
th* idealist from other meju-For men of this type 

^^L. ^^. ' i __ i i i i _ ' * * 

there has been in Russia since the Revolution more 
scope than in any other country at any other 
time, and the more scientific technique is per- 
fected the more scope there will be for them every- 
where. I fully expect, therefore, that men of this 
sort will have a predominant part to play in 



moulding the world during the next two hundred 

The attitude of what may be called practical 
idealists among men of science at the present day 
towards problems of government is very clearly set 
forth in a leading article in Nature (September 6, 
1930), from which the following are extracts : 

Among the changes which the British Association for the 
Advancement of Science has witnessed since its formation in 
1831 is the gradual disappearance of the demarcation between 
science and industry. As Lord Melchett pointed out in a recent 
address, the endeavour to distinguish between pure and applied 
science has now lost any kind of meaning. No clear distinction 
is possible between science and industry. The results of research 
work of the most speculative character often lead to outstanding 
practical results. Such progressive firms as Imperial Chemical 
Industries, Ltd., now follow in Great Britain the practice long 
current in Germany by fostering close contact with the scien- 
tific research work of the universities. . . . 

If, however, it is true that in the last twenty-five years 
science has rapidly assumed the responsibility of leadership in 
industry, a yet wider responsibility is now demanded of it. 
Under the conditions of modern civilization the community in 
general, as well as industry, is dependent upon pure and 
applied science for its continued progress and prosperity. 
Under the influence of modern scientific discoveries and their 
applications, not only in industry but also in many other 
directions, the whole basis of society is rapidly becoming 
scientific, and to an increasing extent the problems which 
confront the national administrator, whether judiciary or 
executive, involve factors which require scientific knowledge 
for their solution. . . . 

In recent years the rapid growth in the rate of all kinds of 
international communication and transport has forced on 
industry an outlook and organization that to an astonishing 
extent are international. These same forces have, however, 



enlarged the bounds within which mistaken policies can exert 
their ill-effects. Recent historical research has demonstrated 
that the difficult racial problems confronting the Union of South 
Africa to-day are the result of mistaken policies determined by 
political prejudicies three generations ago. In the modern 
world the dangers arising from mistakes caused by prejudice 
and neglect of impartial or scientific inquiry are infinitely more 
serious. In an age when nearly all the problems of administra- 
tion and development involve scientific factors, civilization 
cannot afford to leave administrative control in the hands of 
those who have no first-hand knowledge of science. . . . 

Under modern conditions, therefore, more is required of 
scientific workers than the mere enlargement of the bounds 
of knowledge. They can no longer be content to allow others to 
take the results of their discoveries and use them unguided. 
Scientific workers must accept responsibility for the control of 
the forces which have been released by their work. Without 
their help, efficient administration and a high degree of states- 
manship are virtually impossible. 

The practical problem of establishing a right relationship 
between science and politics, between knowledge and power, 
or more precisely between the scientific worker and the control 
and administration of the life of the community, is one of the 
most difficult confronting democracy. The community is, 
however, entitled to expect from members of the British 
Association some consideration of such a problem and some 
guidance as to the means by which science can assume its place 
of leadership. . . . 

It is significant that, in contrast to the relative impotence of 
scientific workers in national affairs, in the international 
sphere advisory committees of experts have since the War 
exerted a remarkable and effective influence even when devoid 
of all legislative authority. To committees of experts organized 
by the League of Nations, and exercising advisory functions 
only, is due the credit of the schemes which were successful in 
rescuing a European State from bankruptcy and chaos, and in 
handling an unemployment scheme which settled a million 
and a half refugees, following upon the greatest migration in 
history. These examples sufficiently demonstrate that, given 



the requisite stimulus and enthusiasm, the scientific expert can 
already exert an effective influence when normal administra- 
tive effort has failed, and when indeed, as in the case of Austria, 
the problem had been dismissed by statesmen as hopeless. 

In truth, scientific workers occupy a privileged position in 
society as well as industry, and there are welcome signs that 
this is now recognized by scientific workers themselves. Thus, 
in his presidential address to the Chemical Society (at Leeds) 
last year, Professor Jocelyn Thorpe suggested that the age is 
at hand in which the changing majorities of governments will 
no longer be able to determine major policies, except in direc- 
tions approved by organized industry, and, in advocating the 
closer organization of science and industry, stressed the political 
strength to be obtained thereby. The paper to be read before 
the British Association on "The Screening of Southend from 
Gunfire 5 * is further evidence that scientific workers are accept- 
ing the responsibility of leadership in matters of social and 
industrial safety. Whatever inspiration or encouragement the 
meetings of the British Association may give to scientific 
workers in the prosecution of their researches, there is no way 
in which the Association can more fittingly serve humanity 
than by calling scientific workers to accept those wide responsi- 
bilities of leadership in society as well as in industry which their 
own efforts have made their inevitable lot. 

It will be seen from the above that men of science 
are becoming conscious of the responsibility towards 
society conferred by their knowledge, and are 
feeling it a duty to take a larger part in the direction 
of public affairs than they have hitherto done, 

The man who dreams of a scientifically organized 
world and wishes to translate hiTdrcam into practice 

- -- -~ ---- - - . - . -- -- - "* > *" 1S * ^^ , C.^. r.* ' 

finds himself Jaced with many obstacles. There^ 

the opposition of inertia 3"^ haKi'f people wish to 
.coutinue behaving as they always 

Jiving as they always have_Hved. There is the 

240 " ~ ~~* "" ~~ "*" "~~~~ ^ ~" 


opposition of vested interest: an economic system 
mTtgritetl irom leudal times gives advantages to 
men who have done nothirigftb deserve^Them, and 
tfiese men~ being rich and powerful, lire able to 
place formidable obstacles in the way of funda- 
mental change. In addition to these forces there jarc 
also hostile idealisms. Christian ethics is in certain 
fundamental respects opposed to the scientific ethip 

grnwrng np j ihristianify 

sizes the importance of the individual soul, and is not 
prepared to sanction the sacrifice of an innocent 
man for the sake of some ulterior good to the 
majority. Clmslianity^in a worcL^is unpoliticaj^ as 
is natural since itgrewup among men devoid of 


growing in connection with scientific technique will 
have its eye upon society rather than upon the 
individual. It will have little use for the superstition 
of guilt and punishment, but will be prepared to 
make individuals suffer for the public good without 
inventing reasons purporting to show that they 
deserve to suffer. In this sense it will be ruthless, 
and according to traditional ideas immoral, but the 
change will have come about naturally through the 
habit of viewing society as a whole rather than as a 
collection of individuals. We view a human body as 
a whole, and if, for example, it is necessary to 
amputate a limb we do not consider it necessary 
to prove first that the limb is wicked. We consider 
the good of the whole body a quite sufficient argu- 

ed 241 


ment. Similarly the man who thinks of society as a 
whole will sacrifice a member of society for the good 
of the whole, without much consideration for that 
individual's welfare. This has always been the 
practice in war, because war is a collective enter- 
prise. Soldiers are exposed to the risk of death for the 
public good, although no one suggests that they 
deserve death. But men have not hitherto attached 
the same importance to social purposes other than 
war, and have therefore shrunk from inflicting 
sacrifices which were felt to be unjust. I think it 
probable that the scientific idealists of the future will 
be free from this scruple, not only in time of war, but 
in time of peace also. In overcoming the difficulties 
of the opposition that they will encounter, they will 
find themselves organized into an oligarchy of 
opinion such as is formed by the Communist Party 
in the U.S.S.R. 

But, the reader will say, how is all this to come 
about? Is it not merely a fantasy of wish-fulfilment, 
utterly remote from practical politics? I do not 
think so. The future which I foresee is, to begin with, 
only very partially in agreement with my own 
wishes. I find pleasure in splendid individuals rather 
than in powerful organizations, and I fear that the 
place for splendid individuals will be much more 
restricted in the future than in the past. Apart from 
this purely personal opinion, it is easy to imagine 
ways in which the world might acquire a scientific 

government such as I am supposing. It is clear that 


the next world war, if it does not end in a draw, 
will give world supremacy to either Russia or the 
United States. In this way a world government 
will come about, in which the men in supreme 
control will have to delegate much of their power 
to experts of various types. It may be assumed that 
in time the supreme rulers, having become soft, 
will grow lazy. Like the Merovingian Kings, they 
will allow their powers to be usurped by the less 
lordly experts, and gradually these experts will 
come to form the real government of the world. 
I imagine them forming a close corporation, regu- 
lated partly by opinion so long as their government 
is challenged, but chosen later on by means of 
examinations, intelligence-tests, and tests of will- 

The society aCexpertS-wfcich I am ima^im'nff will 
embrace all eminent men of science Except a few 
wrong-headed and anarchicaLrrqjiks. jt will possess 
the sole up-to-dgtfi flr Tr>arnpntg , g n ^ will be the 

< "*"* """^ ^B^"^*""* "*"^^^""^^^^^^^ ^ **^ ^W^M 

repository of all new secrets in^ the_art 
TKere will, therefore, be no more war, since resis- 
tance by the unscientific will be doomed to obvious 
failure. TJie societvofexperts AvilL control propa? 

<^Cj^^^a~^-* ' " **" "" ' "0~"' "* "' i l|[t j- UM * M. \. 

ganda ancT education. It ^will teach-loyalty to the 
world government, anolrnjjlce nationalism^ high 
treasonTThe government, being__an 

instir submissiveness jnto i^ jLhe_^grQat ^Jbulk _of tjxc 
population, confining initiative and the habit ol 
co1imnan3~tO "its own members. It is possible that 


it may invent ingenious ways of concealing its own 
power, leaving the forms of democracy intact, and 
allowing the plutocrats or politicians to imagine 
that they are cleverly controlling these forms. 
Gradually, however, as the plutocrats become stupid 
through laziness, they will lose their wealth; it will 
pass more and more into public ownership and 
be controlled by the government of experts. Thus, 
whatever the outwardjorrn* 

will cometo be concentrated in the hands of those 
whTTlijrioIerstand the art ot ^^ scientific manipulation. 

'All this is,~of course, a fancy picture, and whatever 
really happens in the future is likely to be something 
which cannot be foreseen. It may be that a scientific 
civilization will be found essentially unstable. There 
are several reasons which make this a not unplausible 
view. The most obvious of these is war. It happens 
that recent innovations in the art of war have 
increased the power of the attack much more than 
the power of defence, and there seems no likelihood 
that the arts of defence will be able to recover lost 
ground before the next great war. If that is so, the 
Dnly hope for the survival of civilization is that 
;ome one nation will be sufficiently remote from 
.he theatre of operations and sufficiently strong to 
emerge with its social structure undestroyed. The 
Jnited States and Russia are the only two nations 
hat have a reasonable chance of occupying this 
position. If these two nations share the universal 

iisintegration which the next war is almost certain 



to produce in Europe, it is likely to be many cen- 
turies before civilization returns to its present level. 
Even if America survives intact, it will be necessary 
to set about at once organizing the world govern- 
ment, since civilization could not be expected to 
survive the shock of yet another world war. In such 
circumstances, the most important force on the side 
of civilization will be the desire of American investors 
to find safe investments in the devastated countries 
of the old world. Should they be content with invest- 
ments in their own continent, the outlook would be 
black indeed. 

Another reason for doubting the stability of a 
scientific civilization is to be derived from the fall 
of the birth-rate. The most intelligent classes in the 
most scientific nations are dying out, and the Western 
nations as a whole do not do much more than 
reproduce their own numbers. Unless very radical 
measures are adopted, the white population of the 
globe will soon begin to diminish. The French have 
already been led to depend upon African troops, 
and if the white population dwindles there will be 
an increasing tendency to leave the rough work to 
men of other races. In the long run this will lead 
to mutinies, and reduce Europe to the condition of 
Haiti. In such circumstances it would be left to 
the Chinese to carry on our scientific civilization, 
but in proportion as they acquire it, they, too, 
will acquire a lowered birth-rate. Jt is therefore 
impossible for a scientific civilization to be stable 



unless artificial methods are adopted for stimulating 
breeding. There are powerful obstacles in the way 
of adoption of such methods, both financial and 
sentimental. In this matter, as in the matter of war, 
scientific civilization will have to become more 
scientific if it is to escape destruction. Whether it 
will become more scientific with sufficient rapidity 
it is impossible to foresee. 

We have seen that scientific civilization demands 
world-wide organization if it is to be stable. We have 
considered the possibility of such an organization 
in matters of government. We shall now consider 
it in the economic sphere. At present, production is 
organized as far as possible nationally by means of 
tariff walls ; every nation tries to produce at home 
as much as possible of the goods that it consumes. 
This tendency is on the increase, and even Great 
Britain, which formerly aimed at maximizing its 
exports by means of Free Trade, has abandoned 
this policy in favour of comparative economic 

It is, of course, clear that, from a purely economic 
point of view, it is wasteful to organize production 
nationally rather than internationally. It would be 
an economy if all the motor-cars used throughout 
the world were manufactured in Detroit. That is to 
say, a car of given excellence could be produced with 
less expense of human labour in that case than it 
can at present. In a world scientificaUy^or^aniz^c^ 
most industrial products would HSe" tnus localized. 


There would be one place for making pins and 
needles, another place for making scissors and 
knives, another place for making aeroplanes, and yet 
another for agricultural machinery. When,if ever, 
the__vvorjd government that we hatye considered 

Cj3ms_Jnto Jbcing, one ^f its first tasks will be the 
mternationaJorganization of production. Production 
will no longer be left, as at present, to private enter- 
prise, but will be undertaken solely in accordance 
with government orders. This is already the case 
with such things as battleships, because in regard to 
war efficiency is thought to be important; but in 
most matters production is left to the chaotic im- 
pulses of private manufacturers, who make too much 
of some things and too little of others, with the result 
that there is poverty in tV "lidfit QJjanused plenty. 
The industrial plant at present existing in the world 
is in many directions far in excess of the world's 
needs. Hyj>1iir>inp)|jpgr mrnpptiHnn, and concentrating 
production in a fifofllf c nrp m f all this waste cguid 

The control of raw materials is a matter which in 
any scientific society would be governed by a central 
authority. At present the important raw materials 
are controlled by military power. The weak nation 
possessed of oil soon finds itself under the suzerainty 
of some_^stronger nation. The Transvaal Jo&t^jjs 
independence because it containedgold. Jiaw 
materiats^ought not to Tjetohg t(T those who, by 
conquest or diplomacy, have happened to acquire 


the territory in which they are ; they ought to belong 
to a world authority which would ration them to^ 
thoseT who had the most skill in utihzingTTiem. 
Moreover, our present ccvfi8Tmc~ system causes 
everybody to^^Be wasteluT of raw~~irrate1fials, sTnce' 
thereTls no motive for foresight. In a scientific world 
tKeT~stipply ol any vital raw^material will be carefully 
estimated, and as the moment of its exhaustion 
approaches scientific research will be directed to the 
discovery of a substitute. But uranium and thorium, 
or any other raw materials suitable for generating 
atomic energy, should be retained in the hands of 
the international authority. 

Agriculture, for reasons which we considered in 
an earlier chapter, may have less importance in the 
future than it has at present, and has had in the 
past. We shall have not only artificial silk but 
artificial wool and artificial timber and artificial 
rubber. In time we may have artificial food. But 
in the meantime agriculture will become more 
and more industrialized, both in its methods and 
in the mentality of those who practise it. American 
and Canadian agriculturists have already the indus- 
trial mentality, not the mentality of the patient 
peasant. Machinery will, of course, be increasingly 
employed. In the neighbourhood of large urban 
markets intensive cultivation with artificial methods 
of warming the soil will yield many crops every 
year. Here and there throughout the country-side 

there will be large power stations forming the 


nucleus around which the population will cluster. 
Of agricultural mentality. jt_has__bccn known 
Since PP'^mt tirnC^ nothing wiljlsiirviyft^ s ^ n f_lfe 
SQiland even the climate will be subject jtojiuman 

It may be assumed that every man and woman 

v *J -"^ '""* - 4^ "^^_. ~--^ - 

will be obliged to^vork, arid^vmjpe taught amiw 

i i <S ""T'"T ^^""^T" 

work at the old Jj^me_is_jio 
lie pleasantest work, of course^, 
will be that whicngives^the most control over 
the mechanism. JJ^^osts^^ivin^mp^^ 
)resumaEly be awaj^d^Jo^Jiie_aLl^e^jn^^ a. 

entirely inferior work 

llll Ml -~~-, |a |t -^^~ 

negroes will be employed wherever possible. On 

JL su PJi^ 

of work wilLbe rnpJiighly 

theywill require more 

"society will not be one in wMchthere is equality, 
although I doubt whether the inequalities will be 
hereditary except as between different races, i.e. 
between white and coloured labour. Everybqdy-wHl 

paid postswilljbeable to enjoy considcrablfi-Iuxurv^ 
^nere^ilTnotJa^as atj)resent, fluctuatiojis of 

imes, for these are merely 
noDG3vjiiH>Sur!erlKe economic 

^^^"^ ^^^^^** " *"^*^ |J ^^**^ 1 

present beset rich and poor alike 
life wnTbe_destitute ofadven 

which at 


cept for the most 
experts. Ever since ctvmza^ionbegan 

lenhavebeen sceknunmor than 

tirey ^aye^sought aiwthing^ejse. In such a world 
fchejr^ajnmvc it, bu^I arn_n^.uftrsuwhSicr 

they will th 




EDUCATION has two purposes: on the one hand to 
form the mind, on the other hand to train the 
citizen. The Athenians concentrated on the former, 
the Spartans on the latter. The Spartans won, but 
the Athenians were remembered. 

Education in a scientific society may, I think, be 
best conceived after the analogy of the education 
provided by the Jesuits. The Jesuits provided one 
sort of education for the boys who were to become 
ordinary men of the world, and another for those 
who were to become members of the Society of 
Jesus. In like manner, the scientific rulers will 
provide one kind of education for ordinary men and 
women, and another for those who are to become 
holders of scientific power. Ordinary men and 
women will be expected to be docile, industrious, 
punctual, thoughtless, and contented. Of ihese 
qualities probably contentment will be considered 
the most important. In order to produce it, all the 
researches of psycho-analysis, behaviourism, and 
biochemistry will be brought into play. Children will 
be educated from their earliest years in the manner 
which is found least likely to produce complexes. 
Almost all will be normal, happy, healthy boys or 
girls. Their diet will not be left to the caprices of 



parents, but will be such as the best biochemists 
recommend. They will spend much time in the 
open air, and will be given no more book-learning 
than is absolutely necessary. Upon the temperament 
so formed, docility will be imposed by the methods 
of the drill-sergeant, or perhaps by the softer methods 
employed upon Boy Scouts. All the boys and girls 
will learn from an early age to be what is called 
"co-operative," i.e. to do exactly what everybody 
is doing. Initiative will be discouraged in these 
children, and insubordination, without being pun- 
ished, will be scientifically trained out of them. 
Their education throughout will be in great part 
manual, and when their school years come to an 
end they will be taught a trade. In deciding what 
trade they are to adopt, experts will appraise their 
aptitudes. Formal lessons, in so far as they exist, 
will be conducted by means of the cinema or the 
radio, so that one teacher can give simultaneous 
lessons in all the classes throughout a whole country. 
The giving of these lessons will, of course, be recog- 
nized as a highly skilled undertaking, reserved for 
the members of the governing class. All that will be 
required locally to replace the present-day school 
teacher will be a lady to keep order, though it is 
hoped that the children will be so well-behaved that 
they will seldom require this estimable person's 

Those children, on the other hand, who are 

destined to become members of the governing class 


will have a very different education. They will be 
selected, some before birth, some during the first 
three years of life, and a few between the ages of 
three and six. All the best-known science will be 
applied to the simultaneous development of intelli- 
gence and will-power. 

Eugenics, chemical and thermal treatment of the 
embryo, and diet in early years will be used with a 
view to the production of the highest possible 
ultimate ability. The scientific outlook will be 
instilled from the moment that a child can talk, and 
throughout the early impressionable years the child 
will be carefully guarded from contact with the 
ignorant and unscientific. From infancy up to 
twenty-one, scientific knowledge will be poured into 
him, and at any rate from the age of twelve upwards 
he will specialize on those sciences for which he 
shows the most aptitude. At the same time he will 
be taught physical toughness ; he will be encouraged 
to roll naked in the snow, to fast occasionally for 
twenty-four hours, to run many miles on hot days, 
to be bold in all physical adventures and uncom- 
plaining when he suffers physical pain. From the 
age of twelve upwards he will be taught to organize 
children slightly younger than himself, and will 
suffer severe censure if groups of such children fail 
to follow his lead. A sense of his high destiny will be 
constantly set before him, and loyalty towards his 
order will be so axiomatic that it will never occur 
to him to question it. Every youth will thus be 



subjected to a threefold training: in intelligence, 
in self-command, and in command over others. 
If he should fail in any one of these three, he will 
suffer the terrible penalty of degradation to the ranks 
of common workers, and will be condemned for the 
rest of his life to associate with men and women 
vastly inferior to himself in education and probably 
in intelligence. The spur of this fear will suffice to 
produce industry in all but a very small minority of 
boys and girls of the governing class. 

Except for the one matter of loyalty to the world 
State and to their own order, members of the 
governing class will be encouraged to be adventurous 
and full of initiative. It will be recognized that it is 
their business to improve scientific technique, and 
to keep the manual workers contented by means 
of continual new amusements. As those upon whom 
all progress depends, they must not be unduly tame, 
nor so drilled as to be incapable of new ideas. Unlike 
the children destined to be manual workers, they 
will have personal contact with their teacher, and 
will be encouraged to argue with him. It will be his 
business to prove himself in the right if he can, and, 
if not, to acknowledge his error gracefully. There 
will, however, be limits to intellectual freedom, even 
among the children of the governing class. They will 
not be allowed to question the value of science, or 
the division of the population into manual workers 
and experts. They will not be allowed to coquette 
with the idea that perhaps poetry is as valuable as 


machinery, or love as good a thing as scientific 
research. If such ideas do occur to any venturesome 
spirit, they will be received in a pained silence, and 
there will be a pretence that they have not been 

A profound sense of public duty will be instilled 
into boys and girls of the governing class as soon as 
they are able to understand such an idea. They will 
be taught to feel that mankind depends upon them, 
and that they owe benevolent service especially to 
the less fortunate classes beneath them. But let it not 
be supposed that they will be prigs far from it. 
They will turn off with a deprecating laugh any too 
portentous remark that puts into explicit words 
what they will all believe in their hearts. Their 
manners will be easy and pleasant, and their sense 
of humour unfailing. 

The latest stage in the education of the most 
intellectual of the governing class will consist of 
training for research. Research will be highly 
organized, and young people will not be allowed to 
choose what particular piece of research they shall 
do. They will, of course, be directed to research in 
those subjects for which they have shown special 
ability. A great deal of scientific knowledge will 
be concealed from all but a few. There will be 
arcana reserved for a priestly class of researchers, 
who will be carefully selected for their combination 
of brains with loyalty. One may, I think, expect 
that research will be much more technical than 



fundamental. The men at the head of any depart- 
ment of research will be elderly, and content to 
think that the fundamentals of their subject are 
sufficiently known. Discoveries which upset the 
official view of fundamentals, if they are made by 
young men, will incur disfavour, and if rashly pub- 
lished will lead to degradation. Young men to whom 
any fundamental innovation occurs will make 
cautious attempts to persuade their professors to 
view the new ideas with favour, but if these attempts 
fail they will conceal their new ideas until they 
themselves have acquired positions of authority, by 
which time they will probably have forgotten them. 
The atmosphere of authority and organization will 
be extremely favourable to technical research, but 
somewhat inimical to such subversive innovations 
as have been seen, for example, in physics during 
the present century. There will be, of course, an 
official metaphysic, which will be regarded as 
intellectually unimportant but politically sacroscant. 
In the long run, the rate of scientific progress will 
diminish, and discovery will be killed by respect for 

As for the manual workers, they will be discour- 
aged from serious thought : they will be made as 
comfortable as possible, and their hours of work 
will be much shorter than they are at present ; they 
will have no fear of destitution or of misfortune to 
their children. As soon as working hours are over, 
amusements will be provided, of a sort calculated to 


cause wholesome mirth, and to prevent any thoughts 
of discontent which otherwise might cloud their 

On those rare occasions when a boy or girl who 
has passed the age at which it is usual to determine 
social status shows such marked ability as to seem 
the intellectual equal of the rulers, a difficult situa- 
tion will arise, requiring serious consideration. If the 
youth is content to abandon his previous associates 
and to throw in his lot whole-heartedly with the 
rulers, he may, after suitable tests, be promoted, but 
if he shows any regrettable solidarity with his 
previous associates, the rulers will reluctantly con- 
clude that there is nothing to be done with him 
except to send him to the lethal chamber before his 
ill-disciplined intelligence has had time to spread 
revolt. This will be a painful duty to the rulers, but 
I think they will not shrink from performing it. 

In normal cases, children of sufficiently excellent 
neredity will be admitted to the governing class 
from the moment of conception. I start with this 
moment rather than with birth, since it is from this 
moment and not merely from the moment of birth 
that the treatment of the two classes will be different. 
If, however, by the time the child reaches the age 
of three, it is fairly clear that he does not attain the 
required standard, he will be degraded at that point. 
I assume that by that time it will be possible to judge 
of the intelligence of a child of three with a fair 
measure of accuracy. Cases in which there is doubt, 


which should, however, be few, will be subjected to 
careful observation up to the age of six, at which 
moment one supposes the official decision will be 
possible except in a few rare instances. Conversely, 
children born of manual workers may be promoted 
at any moment between the age of three and six, 
but only in quite rare instances at later ages. I think 
it may be assumed, however, that there would be 
a very strong tendency for the governing class to 
become hereditary, and that after a few generations 
not many children would be moved from either class 
into the other. This is especially likely to be the case 
if embryological methods of improving the breed 
are applied to the governing class, but not to the 
others. In this way the gulf between the two classes 
as regards native intelligence may become continu- 
ally wider and wider. This will not lead to the 
abolition of the less intelligent class, since the rulers 
will not wish to undertake uninteresting manual 
work, or to be deprived of the opportunity for 
exercising benevolence and public spirit which they 
derive from the management of the manual workers. 



SCIENCE, when it has once acquired a firm hold 
upon social organization, is hardly likely to stop 
short at those biological aspects of human life which 
have hitherto been left to the joint guidance of 
religion and instinct. We may, I think, assume that 
both the quantity and the quality of the population 
will be carefully regulated by the State, but that 
sexual intercourse apart from children will be 
regarded as a private matter so long as it is not 
allowed to interfere with work. As regards quantity, 
the State statisticians will determine as carefully as 
they can whether the population of the world at the 
moment is above or below the number which leads 
to the greatest material comfort per head. They will 
also take account of all such changes of technique as 
can be foreseen. No doubt the usual rule will be to 
aim at a stationary population, but if some important 
invention, such as artificial food, should greatly 
cheapen the production of necessaries, an increase of 
population might for a time be thought wise. I shall, 
however, assume that, in normal times, the world 
government will decree a stationary population. 

If we were right in supposing that the scientific 
society will have different social grades according 
to the kind of work to be performed, we may assume 


also that it will have uses for human beings who are 
not of the highest grade of intelligence. It is probable 
that there will be certain kinds of labour mainly 
performed by negroes, and that manual workers in 
general will be bred for patience and muscle rather 
than for brains. The governors and experts, on the 
contrary, will be bred chiefly for their intellectual 
powers and their strength of character. Assuming 
that both kinds of breeding are scientifically carried 
out, there will come to be an increasing divergence 
between the two types, making them in the end 
almost different species. 

Scientific breeding, in any truly scientific form, 
would at present encounter insuperable obstacles 
both from religion and from sentiment. To carry it 
out scientifically it would be necessary, as among 
domestic animals, to employ only a small percentage 
of males for purposes of breeding. It may be thought 
that religion and sentiment will always succeed in 
opposing an immovable veto to such a system. I wish 
I could think so. But I believe that sentiment is quite 
extraordinarily plastic, and that the individualistic 
religion to which we have been accustomed is likely 
to be increasingly replaced by a religion of devotion 
to the State. Among Russian Communists this has 
already happened. In any case, what is demanded 
is scarcely as difficult a control of natural impulses 
as is involved in the celibacy of the Catholic priest- 
hood. Wherever remarkable achievements are possi- 
ble and are at the same time such as to satisfy men's 



moral idealism, the love of power is capable of 
swallowing up the instinctive life of the affections, 
especially if an outlet is permitted to purely 
physical sexual impulses. Traditional religion, which 
has been violently dispossessed in Russia, will suffer 
a set-back everywhere if the Russian experiment 
proves successful. In any case its outlook is difficult to 
reconcile with that of industrialism and scientific 
technique. Traditional religion was based upon a 
sense of man's impotence in the face of natural 
forces, whereas scientific technique induces a sense 
of the impotence of natural forces in face of man's 
intelligence. Combined with this sense of power, a 
certain degree of austerity in regard to the softer 
pleasures is quite natural. One sees it already in many 
of those who are creating the mechanistic society of 
the future. In America this austerity has taken the 
form of Protestant piety, in Russia of devotion to 

I think, therefore, that there is hardly any limit 
to the departures from traditional sentiment which 
science may introduce into the question of reproduc- 
tion. If the simultaneous regulation of quantity and 
quality is taken seriously in the future, we may 
expect that in each generation some 25 per cent, of 
women and some 5 per cent, of men will be selected 
to be the parents of the next generation, while the 
remainder of the population will be sterilized, which 
will in no way interfere with their sexual pleasures, 
but will merely render these pleasures destitute of 


social importance. The women who are selected for 
breeding will have to have eight or nine children 
each, but will not be expected to perform any other 
work except the suckling of the children for a suitable 

number of months. No obstacles will be placed upon 
their relations with sterile men, or upon the relations 
of sterile men and women with each other, but 
reproduction will be regarded as a matter which 
concerns the State, and will not be left to the free 
choice of the persons concerned. Perhaps it will be 
found that artificial impregnation is more certain 
and less embarrassing, since it will obviate the need 
of any personal contact between the father and 
mother of the prospective child. Sentiments of 
personal affection may still be connected with 
intercourse not intended to be fruitful, while im- 
pregnation will be regarded in an entirely different 
manner, more in the light of a surgical operation, so 
that it will be thought not ladylike to have it 
performed in the natural manner. The qualities for 
which parents will be chosen will differ greatly 
according to the status which it is hoped the child 
will occupy. In the governing class a considerable 
degree of intelligence will be demanded of parents ; 
perfect health will, of course, be indispensable. So 
long as gestation is allowed to persist to its natural 
period, mothers will also have to be selected by their 
capacity for easy delivery, and will therefore have 
to be free from an unduly narrow pelvis. It is prob- 
able, however, that as time goes on the period of 


gestation will be shortened, and the later months of 
foetal development will take place in an incubator. 
This would also free mothers from the need of 
suckling their children, and would thus make 
maternity a not very onerous matter. The care of 
infants intended to belong to the governing class 
would seldom be left to the mothers. Mothers would 
be selected by their eugenic qualities, and these 
would not necessarily be the qualities required in 
a nurse. On the other hand, the early months of 
pregnancy might be more burdensome than at 
present, since the foetus would be subjected to 
various kinds of scientific treatment intended to 
affect beneficially not only its own characteristics 
but those of its possible descendants. 

Fathers would, of course, have nothing to do with 
their own children. There would be in general only 
one father to every five mothers, and it is quite likely 
that he would never have even seen the mothers of 
his children. The sentiment of paternity would thus 
disappear completely. Probably in time the same 
thing would happen, though to a slightly less degree, 
in regard to mothers. If birth were prematurely 
induced, and the child separated from its mother at 
birth, maternal sentiment would have little chance 
to develop. 

Among the workers it is probable that less elabo- 
rate care would be taken, since it is easier to breed 
for muscle than to breed for brains, and it is not 
unlikely that women would be allowed to bring up 


their own children in the old-fashioned natural 
manner. There would not be, among the workers, 
the same need as among the governors for fanatical 
devotion to the State, and there would not be, 
therefore, on the part of the government the same 
jealousy of the private affections. Among the 
governors, one must suppose, all private sentiments 
would be viewed with suspicion. A man and woman 
who showed any ardent devotion to each other would 
be regarded as they are at present regarded by 
moralists when they are not married. There would 
be professional nurses in creches, and professional 
teachers in nursery schools, but they would be 
considered to be failing in their duty if they felt any 
special affection for special children. Children who 
showed any special affection for a particular adult 
would be separated from that adult. Ideas of this 
kind are already widespread ; they will be found 
suggested, for example, in Dr. John B. Watson's 
book on education. l The tendency of the scientific 
manipulator is to regard all private affections as 
unfortunate. Freudians have shown us that they are 
the sources of complexes. Administrators realize that 
they stand in the way of a whole-hearted devotion 
to business. The Church sanctioned certain kinds 
of love while condemning others, but the modern 
ascetic is more thoroughgoing, and condemns all 
kinds of love equally as mere folly and waste of time. 
What should we expect of the mental make-up of 

* Cf. Psychological Care of Infant and Child, by John B. Watson, p. 83. 


people in such a world? The manual workers may, 
I think, be fairly happy. One may assume that the 
rulers will be successful in making the manual 
workers foolish and frivolous; work will not be too 
severe, and there will be endless amusements of a 
trivial sort. Owing to sterilization, love affairs need 
not have awkward consequences so long as they are 
not between a man and woman who are both of 
them unsterilized. In this way a life of easygoing 
and frivolous pleasure may be provided for the 
manual workers, combined of course with a super- 
stitious reverence for the governors instilled in 
childhood and prolonged by the propaganda to 
which adults will be exposed. 

The psychology of the governors will be a more 
difficult matter. They will be expected to display an 
arduous and hard-working devotion to the ideal 
of the scientific State, and to sacrifice to this ideal 
all the softer sentiments such as love of wife 
and children. Friendships between fellow-workers, 
whether of the same or of different sexes, will tend 
to become ardent, and will not infrequently over- 
step the limits which the public moralists will have 
fixed. In such a case the authorities will separate the 
friends, unless in doing so they will interrupt some 
important research or administrative undertaking. 
When for some such public reason friends are not 
separated, they will be admonished. By means of 
governmental microphones the censors will listen-in 
to their conversations, and if these should at any time 


become tinged with sentiment disciplinary measures 
will be adopted. All the deeper feelings will be 
frustrated, with the sole exception of devotion to 
science and the State. 

The governors will, of course, have their amuse- 
ments for leisure hours. I do not see how art or 
literature could flourish in such a world, nor do I 
think that the emotions from which they spring 
and to which they appeal would meet with govern- 
mental approval, but athletics of a strenuous kind 
will be encouraged among the young of the governing 
class, and dangerous sports will be considered 
valuable as a training in those habits of mind and 
body by which authority over the manual workers 
will be maintained. Love-making among the 
sterilized will be subjected to no restrictions either of 
law or of public opinion, but it will be casual and 
temporary, involving none of the deeper feelings and 
no serious affection. Persons suffering from unen- 
durable boredom will be encouraged to ascend 
Mount Everest or fly over the South Pole, but the 
need for such distractions will be regarded as a sign 
of mental or physical ill-health. 

In such a world, though there may be pleasure, 
there will be no joy. The result will be a type dis- 
playing the usual characteristics of vigorous ascetics. 
They will be harsh and unbending, tending towards 
cruelty in their ideals and their readiness to consider 
that the infliction of pain is necessary for the public 
good. I do not imagine that pain will be much 


inflicted as punishment for sin, since no sin will be 
recognized except insubordination and failure to 
carry out the purposes of the State. It is more 
probable that the sadistic impulses which the 
asceticism will generate will find their outlet in 
scientific experiment. The advancement of knowledge 
will be held to justify much torture of individuals 
by surgeons, biochemists, and experimental psycho- 
logists. As time goes on the amount of added 
knowledge required to justify a given amount of 
pain will diminish, and the number of governors 
attracted to the kinds of research necessitating cruel 
experiments will increase. Just as the sun worship of 
the Aztecs demanded the painful death of thousands 
of human beings annually, so the new scientific 
religion will demand its holocausts of sacred victims. 
Gradually the world will grow more dark and more 
terrible. Strange perversions of instinct will first 
lurk in the dark corners and then gradually over- 
whelm the men in high places. Sadistic pleasures will 
not suffer the moral condemnation that will be 
meted out to the softer joys, since, like the persecu- 
tions of the Inquisition, they will be found in 
harmony with the prevailing asceticism. In the end 
such a system must break down either in an orgy of 
bloodshed or in the rediscovery of joy. 

Such at least is the only ray of hope to lighten the 
darkness of these visions of Cassandra, but perhaps 
in permitting this ray of hope we have allowed 
ourselves to yield to a foolish optimism. Perhaps by 



means of injections and drugs and chemicals the 
population could be induced to bear whatever its 
scientific masters may decide to be for its good. 
New forms of drunkenness involving no subsequent 
headache may be discovered, and new forms of 
intoxication may be invented so delicious that for 
their sakes men are willing to pass their sober hours in 
misery. All these are possibilities in a world governed 
by knowledge without love, and power without 
delight. The man drunk with power is destitute of 
wisdom, and so long as he rules the world, the world 
will be a place devoid of beauty and of joy.